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Australasian Plant Conservation

Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 17(4) March - May 2009, p 1

Guest Editorial: Germplasm conservation - saving plants for the future

Phillip Ainsley Botanic Gardens of Adelaide, SA. Email: ainsley.phillip@saugov.sa.gov.au

Over the last decade the global crisis associated with species extinctions has become one of the key priorities for conservation programs around the world. Paralleling this has been the rapid uptake and increased adoption of ex situ germplasm conservation strategies to complement on ground in situ activities in the battle to stem the loss of plant species and their genetic diversity.

Almost 12 years ago the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) produced the first version of the publication Germplasm Conservation Guidelines for Australia. The thinking behind this document was to provide an introduction to the principles and practices for seed and germplasm banking that researchers and practitioners could apply to Australian native plant species.

Whilst the publication has served us well, the technologies available and knowledge relating to germplasm conservation have greatly increased and improved. It therefore seems an appropriate time to revise this publication and ensure that information about the most current thinking and relevant methodologies are available to all involved in germplasm conservation. Over the last 12 months researchers and practitioners around Australia have been working to revise the ageing document, and it is anticipated that a revised edition will be launched later this year.

As a glimpse of what to expect, we have dedicated this edition of Australasian Plant Conservation to 'Germplasm Conservation' and the role it is playing in saving plants for the future in Australia. Contributions have been made from around the country.

The articles start with an overview about the current seed bank conservation activities in Australia and an update about the achievements of partners affiliated with the AuSCaR (Australian Seed Conservation and Research) network (Tom North). This is followed by an update about the FloraBank Project (Penny Atkinson). These two articles highlight the commitment and extent of germplasm conservation activities occurring around Australia, and the contribution that we are making to the global effort to combat species loss.

Articles then focus on methods and emerging techniques associated with germplasm conservation. They include an overview of orchid ex situ conservation (John Siemon, Cathy Offord and Karen Sommerville), research that is underway to understand the longevity of seeds from Australian native plants (Amelia Martyn), the role of seed orchards (Anne Cochrane and Sarah Barrett) and using biotechnology techniques such as plant tissue culture and cryopreservation (Eric Bunn and Shane Turner) in plant conservation. The final germplasm conservation article is a case study about the contribution of seed conservation and reintroduction to species recovery in Western Australia (Andrew Crawford and Leonie Monks).

In the rest of the issue you can read about the Black Gum, a nationally threatened tree from upland New South Wales and Victoria (Steve Douglas), the discovery of a new population of Minyon Quandong in northern New South Wales (Lui Weber) and learn about a study to determine how successful fencing has been for conserving Western Australia's wheatbelt woodlands (Rachel Standish, Suzanne Prober, Chris Curnow and Jeff Richardson).

Happy reading!