Australasian Plant Conservation
Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 15(2), September - November 2006
From the Editor:
introducing 'Conserving Symbioses'
Co-ordinator, Editorial Team, Australasian Plant Conservation, Royal Botanic
Partnerships between scientists and land managers or community groups and
government are of great importance these days in conservation. Partnerships in
nature have been around for millennia, and indeed were probably crucial for
significant events in evolution, such as the move of plants onto land.
There is an intricate web of inter-connections between plants and other
organisms. These symbioses may benefit both partners (in which case the
relationship is called a mutualism), or one partner may benefit but the other
not be affected for better or worse, or sometimes one partner benefits and the
other incurs some detriment. Organisms involved in symbioses often absolutely
rely on the relationship for their survival and reproduction.
The focus of conservation efforts is too often solely on particular plants or
animals. The purpose of the 'Conserving Symbioses' theme is to draw attention to
symbiotic relationships, because conservation of one organism may depend on an
understanding of links with other organisms.
Examples of essential plant symbioses are relationships with pollinators and
seed dispersers. Mycorrhizas (literally 'fungus-roots') between plants and fungi
are another symbiotic relationship, which is not only out of sight below ground,
but also an often overlooked aspect of the biology and ecology of plant and
Most articles in this issue focus on mycorrhizal relationships between orchids
and fungi. The prominence of orchids is not surprising, due to the many rare and
endangered species, and their reliance on fungi for germination. Nevertheless,
it is worth keeping in mind that most Australian plants (with a few notable
exceptions such as in the Proteaceae) are mycorrhizal.
In the opening article, Mark Brundrett provides an overview of the 'Role of
symbiotic relationships in Australian terrestrial orchid conservation', covering
relationships with both mycorrhizal fungi and insect pollinators. The
fascinating connections between orchids and pollinators, such as thynnid wasps,
are also mentioned in the review (p. 26) by Katrina Syme of a new book about the
flora of the Otway region of Victoria
(see cover illustration).
John Dearnaley and Andrew Le Brocque discuss the different kinds of fungi that
are involved in orchid mycorrhizas, noting the advances made possible in
identification of the fungi by molecular biology techniques. Emily McQualter and
co-authors focus on the fungi associated with Prasophyllum. A most
intriguing finding is that fungi isolated from adult orchid plants are not
always effective at germinating seed of the same orchid species.
Magali Wright and co-authors detail the contributions of Royal Botanic Gardens
Melbourne to Victorian orchid conservation, highlighting a symbiotic approach
which includes hosting of an Australia-wide Cooperative Orchid Conservation
website. Presentations at the recent International Conference on Mycorrhiza,
held in Granada, Spain, are reviewed by Zoe Smith, who mentions many exciting
advances, including the first complete DNA sequencing of a mycorrhizal fungus (a
species of Laccaria).
Given the undoubted importance of fungi as mycorrhizas in Australian ecosystems,
and for iconic Australian plants such as eucalypts and casuarinas, there are
remarkably few published scientific studies about mycorrhizas in revegetation.
Jacqui Stol and Jim Trappe report on a ground-breaking study which indicates
that the mycorrhizal fungi associated with woodland trees disappear from
adjacent cleared paddocks. They also assessed the efficacy of different forms of
mycorrhizal inoculation on outplanted tubestock, and found that some inoculated
fungi failed to form mycorrhizas under the potting mix and watering regime that
they used. There is a great interest in using fungi for revegetation (a common
question is "where do I buy the fungi") but there is a great deal more to learn
before standard protocols can be recommended.
There are numerous other symbioses that do not involve fungi and orchids! The
article from Anne Cochrane and co-authors is a reminder of other ways that
plants rely on animals. The authors demonstrate that ingestion by small mammals
of seeds of Billardiera fusiformis enhanced germination; they also
discuss the potential for ingestion to aid dispersal.
Articles not on the particular theme of each Australasian Plant Conservation are always welcome, and the final two articles feature a report from Kimberlie
Rawlings and David Carr on the resurrection of FloraBank, the native seed
information and web tool resource, and an update from Steve Benham of the
Auckland Botanic Gardens, describing the Threatened Native Plant Garden, an
exciting initiative where threatened plants are showcased in replicated versions
of their natural habitats, along with other members of the relevant plant
Recent issues of Australasian Plant Conservation have been based around a
theme, and it is intended to continue with this arrangement. Themes for
forthcoming issues include: Conservation of Grasslands and Grassy Ecosystems,
Soil Biota in Native Vegetation and Taxonomy and Plant Conservation. Suggestions
for themes are welcome, as are articles, especially from parts of the country
not well-represented in recent issues, particularly South Australia and
Tasmania, and areas of Australasia outside of Australia.
Preparation of Australasian Plant Conservation is a team effort and I would like to draw
attention to the contribution of the team of volunteers, acknowledged on the
inside cover of each issue, who provide information for the Recent Literature
and Resources section and who edit and proof-read articles.