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Australasian Plant Conservation

Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 15(1), June - August 2006

President's Report

Judy West
Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, CSIRO Plant Industry

Increased conservation activities involving seeds of native plant species in recent years and the realisation that our knowledge of seed biology is lacking in some areas has stimulated a range of research projects studying seeds.  Improved knowledge of the biology, ecology and genetics of key species has in turn provided feedback to on-ground practitioners and enhanced the sustainable nature of the various initiatives.  Having scientists and landholders, land managers and conservationists working together ultimately results in more diverse conservation outcomes.  

Conservation of Seed Resources provides the theme of this issue of APC. This provides the opportunity to bring to attention the diversity of enterprises undertaken in recent times, including the partnerships established over the past few years between most Australian States and Territories and the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Some Australian seed banks have existed for some time, others are newly established with support from MSB. There is also much activity at a local level in terms of production and collection of seeds.

It is widely recognised that the single-seedlot-per-species approach of the MSB Australian program does not reflect the sum total of needs for conservation collections. More genetically representative collections for each species will be developed over time, as has been done already to some extent by Australian seed banks. The MSB funding has been a great stimulus to seed banking in Australia, and will facilitate the building of core collections, capabilities and further seed research programs. A report is included here from the newly appointed Co-ordinator for Australian MSB partnerships, Tom North.

Other articles illustrate some of the advances that have been made in areas such as seed provenance selection, seed handling and storage, seed viability, seed orchards and applications. An innovative method of laying out seed orchards in the Murray Catchment of NSW using PVC tape is described. It is encouraging to see research emerging from seed bank initiatives, and this issue contains reports of studies into strategies for collecting seeds from species which retain seed on the plant, and into experimental design using seeds where a number of different treatments are being investigated.

Innovative research is also underway to enhance our knowledge of seed biology, ecology and genetics of undesirable species, since improving our abilities of actively managing environmental weeds assists conservation efforts.  For instance, understanding the movement and gene flow of willow seed of different origins, from different species in different catchments of the Upper Murray system will contribute to more effective management options for this group of plants that choke our vital river systems.  I anticipate being able to report on those studies in a future issue.

On a more general note, ANPC's recent activities have concentrated on south-eastern Australia and particularly in NSW for several reasons.  The Committee is attempting to broaden the Network's impact to other regions and would welcome suggestions from others. With our Secretary Helena Mills recently moving to WA this may provide a greater critical mass and opportunity to stimulate other members into action in that state.