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Australasian Plant Conservation

Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 20(2) September - November 2011, p 2

From the Editor

Selga Harrington
Parsons Brinckerhoff

Welcome, readers, to the spring 2011 issue of Australian Plant Conservation. The theme for this issue is Conservation and restoration of coastal and estuarine ecosystems.

Australia’s coastal environment is one of the most expansive and diverse in the world – with almost 60,000 km coastline it is one of the world’s longest. The majority of the Australian population lives on or near the coast, with an astounding 85% of the population living within 50 km of the coast. Although much of the population lives within capital cities on the coast, many of Australia’s coastal regions have experienced significant population growth in the last decade, generally in regions close to capital cities resulting in rapid and extensive growth and urbanisation.

This rise in population has resulted in greater pressures upon our coastal environments. Since European settlement, over 60% of southern Australia’s coastal wetlands have been cleared with significant loss also in other coastal habitats, including important breeding habitats provided by mangrove forests. Biodiversity in a number of coastal areas is in decline and there are 17 nationally threatened ecological communities (listed under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) occurring within 10 km of the coast.

Key threats to biodiversity in coastal areas explored within this issue include:

  • vegetation clearing, particularly for urban expansion and agriculture
  • activities leading to catchment degradation (e.g. pollution of waterways, activation of acid sulfate soils, erosion and sedimentation)
  • altered flow regimes of rivers, streams, floodplains and wetlands e.g. low environmental flows, draining of wetlands, or artificial inundation for recreation
  • weed invasion.

Climate change is likely to exacerbate existing threats to coastal biodiversity, particularly through the impact of rising sea levels, for example on coastal mangrove and wetland systems. However, the maintenance of coastal vegetation and wetlands is likely to provide some protection from the effects of sea-level rise and increased storm events as a result of climatic changes, particularly protection against coastal erosion.

While increasing development on the coast is threatening our biodiversity, the associated increase in population provides an increased pool of potential members for community groups involved in plant conservation activities. This issue includes numerous inspirational examples of effectively engaging community groups in conservation work and raising environmental awareness in the community through knowledge sharing.

Within this issue, you will learn about real examples of the valuable works being undertaken by conservation groups, individuals and the business and government community to tackle threats to coastal biodiversity. The articles range from broad strategies and programs aimed at conserving these ecosystems, to analysis of restoration techniques and specific on-ground works. They provide valuable insights into the visions and goals, challenges and successes of these coastal plant conservation and vegetation restoration projects.

The themed articles are followed by an article on Travelling Stock Routes (TSR). Originally established for droving sheep and cattle during early European settlement, TSRs now provide important refuges for a range of threatened species and ecological communities. This article summarises the outcomes of the 2011 NSW Travelling Stock Routes and Reserves Conference held in Orange in July and provides a taste of the issues to be covered in the ANPC workshop on managing native vegetation in TSRs. The next ANPC workshop will be held on 3 and 4 November 2011 in Armidale, NSW.

The issue concludes with an obituary for rainforest field ecologist, Anders Bofeldt. Anders is particularly well known for discovering and documenting new populations of rainforest species, thus contributing to our present understanding of rainforest species’ ranges. Added to this are our regular features: Zoë Smith’s report from the USA, Report from New Zealand Plant Conservation Network, Research Roundup; a book review, Information Resources and Useful Websites and Conferences.

This is an issue to inspire you to get involved, to try new techniques and to continue to learn!