Botanic gardens are in a good position to influence public opinion and attitudes on environmental issues through interpreted horticultural displays and education programs. They also have an important role in collecting and maintaining genetically significant stocks of plant species threatened with extinction. In particular, in cooperation with the appropriate land managers and wildlife authorities, they have a vital contribution to make to recovery programs, to return threatened species to a secure status in their natural habitat.
During the last 10 years a conservation collection has been developed at the Gardens. Initially, the aim was simply to establish a collection of Australia's rare or threatened plants. This aim was achieved for many species but there was limited genetic representation within the collection and consequently little of value for recovery programs. In 1986, using guidelines developed within the Gardens, the conservation program was redefined to focus on an endangered species collection. Material has been collected with the importance of genetic diversity in mind and the primary purpose of this collection is to provide the stock needed for recovery programs. The condition of the collection is subject to close, regular monitoring by the horticultural staff.
The endangered species collection now contains around 80 species; augmenting this are many other species considered to be rare, vulnerable or poorly known. These species have been incorporated throughout the Gardens collections. Raised holding beds have been constructed at both Canberra and Jervis Bay to provide specialised growing conditions for certain elements of the collection. Others are held in pots in Canberra but these plants are being repropagated and planted out in the raised beds and in other suitable locations.
The development of specific beds and displays will continue taking into account the requirements of different species. Continued use of the trial bed at the Jervis Bay site will be reviewed. The large amount of work associated with correctly maintaining a genetically representative collection will require that the number of species be reduced to about thirty. Other botanic gardens in Australia will be encouraged to take responsibility for species in their regions.
The plants within the endangered species collection will be regularly monitored and the horticultural information collected will be incorporated in the Australian Network for Plant Conservation database. Propagating material from the collection of rare and threatened species will be distributed to other organisations to ensure that species are held in more than one collection. Wherever possible, the living collections and associated information will be used to assist with recovery plans for Australia's endangered flora. The distribution of plant material and assistance in recovery plans will be mainly achieved through direct involvement in the Australian Network for Plant Conservation.