Extracted from the Director of National Parks and Wildlife Annual Report 1999-2000 submitted to Minister for Environment and Heritage on 14 November 2000
The mission of the Australian National Botanic Gardens is to grow, study and promote Australian plants.
Replanting in the arrivals area featured colourful grassland species. Other concentrations included the rock garden and Sydney region garden. Native daisies and peas, monocots, Proteaceae, Epacris, Sterculia, Goodenia, and citrus family themes were enhanced.
A stocktake of more than a quarter of the living collections was completed including databasing, tagging with embossed aluminium tags, and placement of permanent name labels.
Field collecting expeditions covered south-western Western Australia and the NSW Alps and north-western plains. Collections made included daisies, goodenias, saltbushes and relatives, native peas, rare species of the south coast and tablelands, and fallen epiphytes for the rainforest gully.
Besides producing most of the plant-out stock, the nursery staff planted up the restyled large glasshouse for interpreted public display and, with outdoor garden staff, presented propagation classes and horticultural demonstrations in spring.
A major challenge to the health and integrity of the outdoor gardens, attack by the root rot fungus Armillaria, was met. Fruiting bodies were collected and destroyed, root-barrier-lined trenches dug, infected stumps excavated or burned in situ, and trees under threat had their root crowns cleared of soil and humus. An expert was engaged to advise on the extent of infection and to produce a plan for future management of this invasive and insidious pest.
A major program of tree surgery was continued to remove dangerous branches, particularly in areas of high visitation. Extensive areas of the eucalypt lawns were renovated, landscaping using rock was carried out in several areas and the upper cafe-pond landscape was revamped.
The Gardens continued to be a popular venue, with 316 000 visits during 1999-2000, a slight decrease from the previous year. A wide variety of recreational and educational programs was offered to the public. Ninety bookings for the Gardens meeting rooms and theatrette provided a modest revenue stream to assist in funding public programs. Technical services provided for the public also received steady use with 150 batches of plant identifications and 200 horticultural enquiries answered. The Gardens Internet site received xxxxx successful visits in the year.
Cooperative marketing ventures with the bookshop and cafe managements, the Canberra Tourism and Events Corporation and the National Capital Authority complemented local advertising to promote the Gardens within Canberra and interstate. Sponsorship by local television stations greatly assisted in promoting the Gardens work. Staff made presentations to local service groups and schools.
The summer program was especially successful. Concerts attracted around 3000 visitors each weekend (an increase of 1000 from the previous year) and other events drew capacity audiences. The summer program, run in conjunction with the Friends of the Gardens, has brought new visitors to the Gardens and introduced many people to the value and beauty of native plants. A concert featuring Paul Kelly, Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter also attracted around 6000 people during NAIDOC Week celebrations in July.
The exhibition program included a display on bushfire, Touching the Landscape - an artistic response to the Australia landscape, and Floral Impressions, a history of the scientific illustration of Australian plants. Around 107 000 people visited the exhibition area, a slight decrease from the previous year. Two exhibitions developed by the Gardens were displayed at Kosciuszko National Park and at Cumberland State Forest, Sydney. Other educational activities included a display of native reptiles as part of Science Week, a cartoon competition with Greening Australia ACT for Arbour Week and indigenous programs as part of NAIDOC Week that attracted around 3500 participants.
The Gardens Education Service developed a range of self-guiding materials to complement existing Explainer-led programs and conducted adult and specialist education programs including plant identification and propagation courses. Nearly 14 000 people participated in education programs (including nearly 500 Explainer-led tours), a substantial increase on previous years.
The Friends of the Gardens now has over 600 members. During the year the group developed a strategic plan to guide their development and activities over coming years. Activities included a schools photographic competition and a variety of walks, talks and visits. The Friends Volunteer Guide Service grew to nearly 60 people and conducted 600 guided tours, including many for interstate tour groups. The Friends paid for a sundial and a number of other small capital works.
For people unable to visit the Gardens in person, the Gardens and Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research Internet sites averaged 6287 successful requests each day. Public access to information on Australian plants and botany and records from botanical databases was enhanced. Regular updates of In Flower this Week were included and a wide range of educational material was added.
A draft plan of management will be released for public comment early in 2000-01. The plan will guide management of the Gardens until 2006 and outline priority developments.
The introduction of accrual accounting prompted a review of the asset maintenance programs with life-cycle maintenance programs developed and costed. Topographic surveys of the Gardens sites and facilities were completed as the basis for the development of a site facilities management system.
Small capital works completed included the Ducrou Pavilion, new garbage disposal facilities, minor landscaping works and refurbishment of a number of buildings and their surrounds.
A major project on germination and establishment of native grasses was successfully completed. The project produced numerous useful findings on these difficult aspects of this increasingly popular horticultural group. The results were made available to landcare groups and the public in well-attended seminars and are available on the Gardens Internet site.
The Gardens seedbank set up procedures to carry out seed viability testing on a five-yearly cycle in a drive to achieve basic international standards for germplasm storage by 2001. Five regular volunteer staff helped in this work.
The Authoritys Internet site now includes about 20 per cent of registered cultivar descriptions. Volunteer workers contributed more hours than the equivalent of one full-time person. Forty-eight registration applications under Plant Breeders Rights and 25 new cultivar registrations were processed, a large increase on previous years.
The initial agreement establishing the centre expired in December 1999. With ministerial approval, the agreement was renewed by Environment Australia and CSIRO with an agreement to collaborate for a further ten years.
The Centre maintained the scientific specimens of the Australian National Herbarium and continued research into the taxonomy, systematics and conservation of Australian native plants. Staff published a total of 100 articles in scientific journals, books and newsletters documenting Australia's plant biodiversity. Articles covered the Centre's activities in conservation biology, genetics in rare species conservation management, fire regimes, management strategies for weed control, models of host resistance and pathogen virulence, and the underlying principles of rarity in flora.
A major review was conducted of the Centres herbarium information and database activities. The outcome endorsed the strategic directions of information management by the Centre, while recommending emphasis be given to targeted user training, speedier integration of the herbarium, living collections and photo databases, and accelerated data capture. These recommendations are being taken up in the Centres operations.
Further contributions were made to the international Genera Orchidacearum project, notably text, illustrations and photographs of a large group, the Diuridieae. A preliminary project using molecular DNA analysis to understand the evolution and phylogeny of the Dendrobinieae group of orchids was undertaken and the results presented at an international orchid conference. Staff began compiling a book on the orchids of the ACT.
Contributions to the Flora of Australia included the treatment of the genus Grevillea, which was published during the year, and a manuscript completed on the mosses of Norfolk Island.
Major molecular studies were completed proposing updated evolutionary and systematic arrangements in the family Asteraceae. Systematic studies were undertaken for the legume family, particularly an analysis of Pultenaea and a molecular analysis of evolutionary relationships of the major Acacia groups.
A project was started to create an interactive electronic identification key to the genus Grevillea, the third largest plant genus in Australia. Work continued on expanded editions of the interactive key to rainforest trees and shrubs and of Euclid, the interactive key to the eucalypts of south-eastern Australia.
The centre continued to service the botanical, taxonomic and information needs of the Gardens and its clients, supplying identification services, database extracts, and general botanical information.
Training for secondary and tertiary students continued, as did information sessions for members of the scientific community and the general public. Interns, students and members of the public provided substantial support on a voluntary basis to the Australian National Herbarium. With this assistance, exceptional progress was made in processing specimens. The collection now numbers 1 337 000 specimens, of which 529 000 or 40 per cent are databased.
The centre provides the coordinator for the Endangered Flora Network, a subcommittee of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Councils Standing Committee on Conservation, and staff continued assisting in the development and implementation of a number of endangered plant species recovery plans.
Centre staff provided expert botanical advice on the distribution and occurrence of plant species of national significance, contributing to the development of decision-support systems for the implementation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Update of the Australian Plant Name Index continued and access to the databases was improved for the botanical community and the public. Collaboration on the International Plant Names Project with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Harvard University continued, further integrating the Australian Plant Name Index in a global database of plant names.
Databased herbarium records are a powerful tool for environmental decision-making and a proposal to use data from the major Australian herbaria was prepared for consideration by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. Collaboration with State herbaria in the formation of an on-line Virtual Australian Herbarium was critical to this project.
Training workshops in the use of Euclid, the interactive key to the eucalypts of south-eastern Australia, were held in regional areas for Bushcare and other land management groups.
The Australian National Botanic Gardens Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research Internet site contains about 6500 pages of information. About 188 000 successful requests to access these pages were made each month, delivering information to 90 000 hosts in 150 countries. The various botanical databases were accessed via the web site about 5000 times each month.
Management of the National Plant Photograph Collection was transferred from the Visitor Services to the Botany Section to reflect an increased emphasis on visual resources and online Internet information in accordance with Government policy on access to information. The collection increased to 33 433 slides with 579 additions including 66 made under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme. Among major users of the collection was the Australian Biological Resources Study for the Flora of Australia series. In all, 972 photos were borrowed for lectures or publishing. An additional 566 digital images from the collection were added to the Gardens Internet site. The combined Gardens Centre Internet site is at: http://www.anbg.gov.au /.
The Gardens was represented at the World Botanic Garden Congress in Asheville, USA and continued liaison with regional botanic gardens on volunteer management and interpretive issues.
Two Gardens' staff are members of the Burrendong Arboretum Trust.
Staff took part in a range of cooperative activities including:
Staff took part in a range of botanical and conservation forums, including: