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Australasian Plant Conservation (formerly Danthonia)

Originally published in Danthonia 8(3), December 1999

Promotion Practice and Partnerships: ANPC's Fourth National Conference

Jeanette Mill, National Coordinator

The ANPC's Fourth National Conference, Promotion Practice and Partnerships, held in Albury Wodonga in late November was a great success. This issue of Danthonia includes reports on the conference from several different perspectives, but from my own perspective there were some particular highlights and successful new additions to the formula. The conference was the first since ANPC became an incorporated association, so members had the opportunity to meet the new ANPC Executive Committee, and to attend the first ANPC Inc. Annual General Meeting - see insert for reports and minutes.

The conservation of what has become known as the forgotten flora, the non-vascular plants, was brought to the fore in a dedicated session (see below for session outcomes). A series of practical techniques workshops was held as a follow on from the ANPC's highly successful Plant Conservation Techniques Courses. These were designed to give practitioners a range of take-home skills, and to also offer an affordable and accessible alternative for community-based people unable to attend the whole conference. The workshops attracted many people from the region, including farmers and landcarers. In keeping with the non-vascular thread, two workshops were held on cryptogams - one on the Fungimap project (see separate report) and one on soil crust lichens. These were very well attended by enthusiastic would-be cryptogam conservationists.

The keynote papers set the scene well. Dr Kingsley Dixon, Director of Plant Science at Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Perth, Western Australia, and President of the ANPC, emphasised the need for scientists to be relevant to the conservation community in their research, and to bring outcomes to practitioners in an accessible way. Dr Dixon also recommended that practitioners look over the shoulder of a scientist, and actively form partnerships to promote the vital two way flow of information. The ANPC's unique and crucial role in achieving this was emphasised.

Dr David Given, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Plant Conservation Subcommittee, Manager of the International Centre for Nature Conservation in New Zealand, and ANPC Vice-President, brought an international perspective with his keynote paper. Global strategies such as the SSC Plant Conservation Programme for 2000-2005 were discussed, with ANPC being presented as a world-leading proponent in conservation networking.

The international links were furthered by Lucy Sutherland, representing Botanic Gardens Conservation International, who brought delegates up to date on the new International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation, being formulated through a world-wide consultative process.

Sessions and Recommendations

The three days of papers highlighted the broad membership of ANPC and its crucial role in facilitating the sharing of information between all involved in plant conservation. Papers were presented from a range of organisational backgrounds, including industry representatives like the National Herbalists Association of Australia. This paper explored the impact of the herbal medicine industry on the Australian flora, and called for close ties between the industry and plant conservation. The Friends of Grasslands spoke of their efforts to conserve and raise the profile of one of Australia's most threatened ecosystems.

Paper sessions were followed by workshops, where delegates had the opportunity to shape ANPC's focus over the next two years. Delegates endorsed the important role of ANPC regional groups in dissemination and application of science to on-ground projects and suggested they increase their involvement in providing training and strong regional networking, targeting regions which include biodiversity hotspots where there is little plant conservation action currently. In discussing ANPC's international role delegates resolved that ANPC needs to maintain its voice in international networks, and to provide assistance to surrounding countries as is deemed appropriate by those countries.

The workshop on Conservation and Restoration of Ecological Communities & Ecosystems recommended that ANPC establish a working group to review existing restoration guidelines and accredit those which meet best practice in the area. This would include modifying guidelines to take into account gaps such as cryptogams and heavy metals. ANPC would be grateful to hear of any existing guidelines, and any information can be sent to the National Office.

In discussing conservation actions for non-vascular plants, it was recommended that a working list of Australian Rare or Threatened Non-vascular plants be produced, similar to the existing list for vascular plants. This was originally proposed by Dr Tom May of Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, as a ROTAF list (Rare or Threatened Australian Fungi) but was considered to be such an important initiative that it soon expanded out to cover all of the non-vascular plants.

In discussing the ANPC's training role, a list of training topics was compiled, and delegates recommended members commit to organising the delivery of courses in regions. Priority regions were identified.

The Research into Practice session focused on the importance of translating the outcomes of science into practice. Continuation of the program of producing best practice guidelines, such as for in situ conservation and provenance, was considered an effective means of achieving these aims. It was also considered a priority that ANPC play a role in the assessment process for applications for grants such as through the Natural Heritage Trust and for conservation research.

Finally, the importance of effective partnerships was highlighted by a series of papers on linking government, industry and community, and on overcoming the increasing problems of fragmentation. It was recommended that ANPC coordinate the production of a set of guidelines on partnerships, and some of Australia's leading lights in forming partnerships have volunteered to collaborate on this. See Danthonia insert for the full set of recommendations. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best wishes of the season, and a fabulous new millennium. It has been another outstanding year in terms of input to the Network by members, and this is the aspect of the Network I always reflect on at this time of the year, as it is only through this support that the ANPC continues to thrive.

Thank you all sincerely, and we at the National Office look forward to working with you again in the new millennium.