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Fenner Conference on the Environment – 9 September 2021

The Australian Academy of Science Fenner Conference on the Environment: ‘Exceptional times, exceptional plants’ was held during the Australasian Seed Science Conference.

This free one day workshop was an opportunity for scientists and organisations in Australia and New Zealand and across the broader region to better understand which Australasian plant species need alternatives to seed banking. This workshop was funded by a grant from the Australian Academy of Science Fenner Conference on the Environment.

Presenters explained the range of ex situ conservation options available including seed banking, living collections, cryopreservation and tissue culture, based on the newly released third edition of ‘Plant Germplasm Conservation in Australia – strategies and guidelines for developing, managing and utilising ex situ collections’. These methods for conserving plant germplasm can help facilitate species recovery and protect species from extinction.

 

Location of major ex situ conservation facilities for Australian flora, including Australian Seed Bank Partnership Partners and Associates*, the Australian Tree Seed Centre, the Australian Grains Genebank and Australian Pastures Genebank (both storing crop wild relatives) and major forestry seed banks with conservation collections (Image: CAM Graphics; in Offord et al. 2021 Germplasm Guidelines Chapter 2).

Key:

        1. *George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens conservation seed bank
        2. * Alice Springs Desert Park
        3. * Western Australian Seed Centre, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Kensington, and Kings Park and Botanic Garden
        4. Forest Products Commission Seed Centre
        5. Australian Pastures Genebank, South Australian Research and Development Institute
        6. * South Australian Seed Conservation Centre, Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium of South Australia (BGSH)
        7. *Australian Grains Genebank, Agriculture Victoria
        8. * Victorian Conservation Seedbank, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
        9. Tasmanian Seed Centre, Sustainable Timber Tasmania
        10. * Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre, Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
        11. * National Seed Bank, Australian National Botanic Gardens
        12. Australian Tree Seed Centre, CSIRO
        13. * Australian PlantBank, Australian Institute of Botanical Science, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust
        14. * Brisbane Botanic Gardens Conservation Seed Bank, Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha

 

Acting Threatened Species Commissioner, Dr Fiona Fraser, opens the Fenner Conference.

Conference recap

The conference was opened by Acting Threatened Species Commissioner, Dr Fiona Fraser, followed by a keynote address from Prof. Hugh Pritchard “Beyond conventional seedbanking”. The theme of Session 1 ‘Identifying Exceptional Species’ introduced techniques to identify seed storage behaviour and short-lived species, as well as the importance of tissue culture and living collections for conserving exceptional species. Session 2 covered ‘Cryopreservation of exceptional species’ with an introduction by Dr Valerie Pence, followed by presentations on cryopreservation of different tissue types including shoot tips, embryonic axes and fern spores. In Session 3 a panel session on the theme ‘Using all the tools of ex situ conservation to conserve our national plant treasures’ was facilitated by Dr Cathy Offord. Download the Program here.

The Fenner Conference was an ideal introduction to key chapters of the new third edition of ‘Plant Germplasm Conservation in Australia – strategies and guidelines for developing, managing and utilising ex situ collections’ (also known as the Germplasm Guidelines), which was launched earlier in the Australasian Seed Science Conference. Significant advances to identify and conserve ‘exceptional plants’ ex situ have been made since the guidelines were last published in 2009.

 You can view the full Fenner Conference proceedings and videos relating to Plant Germplasm Conservation in Australia using the ANPC YouTube ‘Playlists’ feature.

Knowledge-sharing will support plant conservation in this critical time.  Sharing our knowledge can help prevent plant extinctions by better understanding species biology as well as providing plants and knowledge to support translocation and ecological restoration.

Session 1 Q&A with facilitator Dr Amelia Martyn Yenson, Dr David Merritt, Dr Karen Sommerville and Dr Cathy Offord (clockwise from top left).

Session 2 Q&A with facilitator Dr Amelia Martyn Yenson, Dr Bryn Funnekotter and Dr Jayanthi Nadarajan (clockwise from top left).

Session 3 panel discussion with facilitator Dr Cathy Offord, Dr Linda Broadhurst and Mr Damian Wrigley (top, left to right), Dr Lydia Guja, Dr Nathan Emery and Ms Karin van der Walt (middle, left to right), Dr Karen Sommerville and Mr Gibson Sosanika (bottom row, left to right).

After the conference

A full conference report will be published in Australasian Plant Conservation Volume 30 Issue 3 in early 2022. We will be holding a writing day, by invitation, to summarise outcomes and recommendations for exceptional species conservation in Australia and New Zealand and conclude the Australian Academy of Science Fenner Conference on the Environment in 2022, more details to come.