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Australasian Plant Conservation

Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 16(4), March - May 2008

From the President

Bob Makinson
Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Sydney

The theme of this issue comes from ANPC’s 7th National Conference Our declining flora – tackling the threats, held in Mulgoa, NSW on 21-24 April 2008. The conference examined threatening processes in plant conservation, and their management at the species, plant community and landscape levels.

Natural plant species and communities are essential for a healthy environment but all around us we see signs that many are in decline. We face a continuing onslaught of new arrivals of actual or potential weeds, feral pests, and diseases, and increasing impacts from those already here. Direct human impacts on native vegetation continue through clearing and habitat modification. Added to these are the impacts on native biodiversity of climate change – more extreme temperatures and changes in rainfall – for which we have no roadmap. Presenters at the conference gave the latest analyses and research on these processes, and case studies of the range of responses being tested in practice.

Australia has come a long way in terms of understanding the need to conserve our living native species and ecosystems. Yet as a society we still struggle to integrate the conservation ethic in our social and economic planning, and to invest at the scale necessary to understand our biodiversity and reduce its rate of decline.

There has been real progress in the last decade in recognising and understanding regional and landscape level ecological processes and threats that operate at these levels. Increasingly, government investment and structures in natural resource management are directed at attempting to address these threats in a way that is strategic at both the human and the biophysical levels.

This more regional approach is to be applauded, but it is important also that we do not fail to address the finer-scale priorities – patches, sites, and individual species – that will not be caught in time by broader-scale habitat protection measures. Moreover, it is these finerscale cases that are often the key to local community involvement, the best test-beds for innovation, and vital for fostering a love of nature in the coming generation. Government conservation efforts still have a way to go in fully empowering and resourcing the potential energy for conservation in the community.

The Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) has always stood for integrated conservation – combining good science with good practice, in situ site and habitat protection with ex situ measures like seed-banking, and professional science with community-driven conservation efforts. We specialise in facilitating links and information flow between scientists, conservation managers, and onground conservation practitioners. Closer links between these sectors are vital if we are to adequately deal with threatening processes, understand threats, anticipate new ones, and reverse the decline.

We are confident that the Mulgoa conference, and the workshops and courses we have run in recent years (23 in six States since 2002), are playing a useful part in this process – but we depend on you, our members, and those who are not yet members – to help us keep doing so. The ANPC is a largely voluntary organisation. We have an indispensable staff of two, but a great deal of what we do is based on volunteered time and effort. Your suggestions for new initiatives, and your help in getting them funded and implemented, is vital. If our work seems useful to you, please consider joining or becoming more deeply involved.