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Australasian Plant Conservation

Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 14(2), September - November 2005

President's Report

Judy West
Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, CSIRO Plant Industry

Since the last time I wrote some notes on our activities we have held a very successful National Conference in Adelaide.  The conference Plant Conservation: The Challenges of Change was hosted jointly with the South Australian Department for Environment and Heritage and the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide and I wish to thank all those involved for helping to organise a smooth running and stimulating meeting. 

Although the number of participants (just over 100) was slightly less than expected, their areas of interest were broad and covered the spectrum of activities relating to plant conservation.  This ANPC National Conference is really the only venue of its kind in that it brings together the on-ground practitioners together with researchers and policy makers, and certainly stimulates thoughtful debate and discussion.  The opportunity for networking and learning from others was outstanding and members and non-members capitalised on the chance to raise issues and concerns from their experiences.

The program of presentations on the first two days provided a diverse range of papers around the four themes: (1) Extreme policy changes, (2) Urban ecology, (3) Using revegetation to achieve ecological outcomes, and (4) Indigenous interests in conservation; several of these papers are summarized in this issue of APC.  A keynote address by a prominent leader in the field opened up each theme and set the scene for the contributions which followed.  In most cases the keynote speaker aroused some controversies and provoked healthy debate.

The third day saw the majority of participants take part in a field trip to the Adelaide Hills and particularly to Scott Creek Conservation Park where they were able to view first hand and to learn from the results of volunteers driving a major restoration effort. 

Friday September 29 supported a number of concurrent workshops covering different issues associated with plant conservation, including analysis of techniques for assessing vegetation, grass identification, weed risk assessment, managing small patches in urban areas and effective communication strategies.  By all accounts participants found this format of short targeted workshops led by experts to be extremely rewarding and helpful for their own circumstances.

On the final day of the conference ANPC ran another of the Translocation for Threatened Plants workshops.  The real examples and scenario considerations seem to be a proven format to successfully have practitioners consider the issues of translocation and to assess the feasibility of success and options that may be pursued to reach positive outcomes.

From the big picture point of view there were a few take-home messages from the conference and workshops.  The inclusion of monitoring and review processes in any conservation and restoration project is paramount - besides learning from past experiences, in many cases an iterative approach has resulted in far better outcomes than if the initial methods had been left to run their course.  There is a clear need for baseline information to be available to on-ground practitioners and some responsibility for those researching and providing such knowledge bases to enhance accessibility.  A sobering point concerning any plant conservation effort is the length of time required by the nature of the work - it is important to recognise from the outset that any such project requires long term planning and to incorporate that into the expected outcomes.  To assist others in their approach to monitoring of revegetation projects it may be useful to set up a range of examples at varying scales and in diverse plant communities to illustrate applicability of different methodologies.  During the conference several projects were presented that would provide excellent examples for such an initiative. 

ANPC has been busy on the workshop front in the past couple of months as well, including further translocation workshops in New South Wales; all were very well attended.  Our expertise in running these translocation workshops resulted in an invitation to expand the content and to run a similar program in India - see report elsewhere in this issue.

Our Project Officer Sally Stephens has organised more rehabilitation workshops in regional New South Wales.  Following the Armidale workshop in July, two others were held at Wagga Wagga and Dubbo, the latter followed by a grass identification techniques course.  The feedback from participants of these workshops has been extremely positive and indicates the need for this sort of assistance in undertaking restoration and ecological rehabilitation management activities. A report on this series of workshops is included in this issue.

With many of the ANPC committee attending the meeting in Adelaide we took the opportunity to get together a couple of times to discuss the more strategic directions of the Network.  Included was some discussion on the efficacy of these ANPC national conferences and whether we should continue in this format, or to try some other style of meeting to generate ideas and discussion on issues relating to plant conservation.   One outcome of our deliberations was the idea of trying a different style of meeting, perhaps in the form of a one-day forum (perhaps the "ANPC Annual Forum") together with one day of workshops.  The large number of science and conservation related meetings around Australia now provides a greater challenge to hold a meeting that will attract the mix of conservation interests that has always been ANPC's remit.  If you have any comments or suggestions as to future meetings or topics for a one-day forum please don't hesitate to contact us, any of the Committee members or myself.