Three nationally important plant species have been discovered in Gunbower Forest for the first time in a decade.
North Central Catchment Management Authority project officer Kathryn Stanislawski said the discovery was of conservation significance.
‘‘We came across the nationally endangered winged peppercress, the rare Mallee annual bluebell and the little-known bundled peppercress,’’ Mrs Stanislawski said.
‘‘We have been surveying the forest for a decade, and have never recorded them in our monitoring sites before,’’ she said.
‘‘We also found the highest number of rare or threatened understorey species in the box woodland communities, and in the river red gum area, since 2012.
‘‘These are small plants, but they are delivering a big, loud message.’’
Mrs Stanislawski said the discovery showed that environmental flows had made a big difference, with water flowing into areas of the forest that were in ‘‘dire straits’’.
‘‘Two managed flows in 2014 and 2015 gave Mother Nature a kick start, with last year’s floods taking full advantage, helping the area come alive,’’ she said.
‘‘These new plants are proof of that, and now they have set seed, they will be here for a long time to come.
‘‘Before river regulation, large floods used to inundate this area about seven years in every 10. Now it is less than four years in every 10, and they don’t last as long.
‘‘On top of this, there are very few smaller floods. That’s where we come in.’’
The watering program will continue in the coming weeks, with smaller regulators off Gunbower Creek used to deliver a further 4Gl.