New report highlights the concerns of the native seed sector that future demand will be difficult to meet.
Our unique native plant ecosystems are critical habitat for native animals and essential in mitigating the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.
High quality seed from a range of native species is the foundation for restoring many of our threatened plants and natural landscapes, particularly those unable to regenerate after the catastrophic bushfires of the past summer, or that are otherwise especially vulnerable.
The people who collect, purchase and use this seed are a critical part of an industry which faces many challenges, including dwindling seed supplies, continued loss and fragmentation of native vegetation, declining expertise and training, low levels of funding and the increasingly severe impacts of climate change (to name but a few).
To address these challenges, the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) undertook the Australian Native Seed Survey in 2016-2017 to better understand the native seed sector and its ability to meet current and future demand.
Threatened Species Commissioner Sally Box launching the ANPC’s The Australian Native Seed Survey Report.
The Australian Native Seed Survey Report, launched today by the Threatened Species Commissioner Dr Sally Box, details the full results of this national survey capturing the behaviours and views of a wide range of sector participants – which the four authors (listed below) say are not all encouraging.
‘Worryingly, the report highlights the concerns of the sector that future demand for seed will be difficult to meet from the wild’ said Martin Driver from the ANPC.
‘This is due to the high costs of seed collection and the lack of seed from a broad range of the species that are critical for restoration. The recent bushfires have made this situation worse’.
The report identifies that there may not be enough native seed in many areas to support the large-scale restoration required for landscape recovery. It also outlines many of the issues that need to be addressed in future restoration programs.
Seed production of native seed offers some hope, but currently lacks the capacity to meet demand.
‘Seed production areas (SPAs) are an increasingly important supplier of seed for restoration, landscaping and bush food markets’ said Dr Paul Gibson-Roy from Kalbar Resources.
‘SPAs are locations where we cultivate native species for their seeds, like agricultural crops. They can produce seed in higher quantities and quality that is much easier to collect than in the wild. Their continued development will be critical to meeting seed needs and preserving wild populations’.
The report’s findings and eleven prioritised recommendations will assist governments to develop policies and plans to help the native seed sector grow and thrive, and meet the demand for quality seed into the future. This will ultimately help restore Australia’s unique ecosystems and precious threatened plants.
The Australian Native Seed Survey Report was released as part of the NSW Government funded Healthy Seeds Project which aims to deliver an evidence-based Roadmap to secure a reliable, genetically-appropriate native seed supply in NSW, and update the Florabank Guidelines for best-practice native seed collection and use. An audit of past and current SPAs has recently commenced under the Project to help guide the establishment of better-funded and strategic SPAs in the future. Find out more at the Healthy Seeds webpage here https://www.anpc.asn.au/healthy-seeds/.
Collecting Boree (Acacia pendula) seed for restoration. (Photo: Martin Driver)
Media support enquiries Jo Lynch Business Manager, Australian Network for Plant Conservation Inc. Email 0438 775823
Contact details for The Australian Native Seed Survey Report authors for comment:
Dr Paul Gibson-Roy Manager Ecological Restoration, Kalbar Resources Email 0437 591097
Martin Driver Project Manager, Australian Network for Plant Conservation Inc. Email 0400 170957
Wildflower seed production boxes at Melbourne University with Bulbine Lilies (Bulbine bulbosa) in the foreground. (Photo: Paul Gibson-Roy)
Dr Linda Broadhurst Director, Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research (CSIRO National Research Collections Australia) Email 02 6246 4988
Nola Hancock Research Fellow, Macquarie University Email
Healthy Seed Project Partners Australian Association of Bush Regenerators Australian Seed Bank Partnership Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research Greening Australia NSW Government Society for Ecological Restoration The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Would you like to use your financial/accounting skills to help conserve Australia’s plants that have been through fires, floods, hail and more this summer? Or know someone who would? The ANPC is looking for a volunteer to nominate as Treasurer to assist in our efforts to conserve our amazing biodiversity. This is also a great opportunity to gain Executive Not-for-profit Committee experience. The role of Treasurer is broadly to manage the ANPC’s financial affairs, and attend and present financial reports to the ANPC’s bi-monthly Management Committee meetings and Annual General Meetings. Desirable knowledge, skills and experience: a sound familiarity with financial record keeping and a willingness to learn the basics of Xero financial software. Day to day financial management is undertaken by ANPC office staff. Location in or near Canberra is an advantage but not essential. Click here for more information.
In addition to the enormous human, social, economic and native animal impacts of the recent catastrophic bushfires, the impacts on our unique plants and ecological communities will also be huge. Although most Australian flora have evolved to cope with fire, recovering by re-sprouting or seed germination, the drought combined with severe and too frequent fire will retard recovery. Some plants and ecological communities that have been burnt, including many rainforest species, are sensitive to fire and may struggle to recover. At this stage, while many threatened plants have had populations that were burnt, we don’t know how well they will recover. Encouraging some native flora to bounce back will require targeted funding and actions to conserve and restore habitats and ecological communities, including control of weeds and feral grazers, and ensuring we have or develop ex situ seed banking for as many threatened species as possible. Resilience of many native plants will depend on allowing them enough time to replenish their natural seed banks. We will also need comprehensive monitoring of fire affected landscapes, starting immediately and continuing from after the first rains, for up to two years, to detect which species are returning, and which are not.
The current fires are unprecedented in extent and severity and have burnt over many areas where the plants had not yet recovered from previous fires. In these cases, assessing natural plant recovery may identify the need for cautious and well-planned human intervention. Areas/species likely to require assistance include threatened species, particularly those known from only one or to populations. In these cases, assessing the natural plant recovery, as well as assessing risks to recovery (grazers and weeds) will inform the development of a restoration plan, and identify which native species are not returning. The ANPC’s Guidelines for the Translocation of Threatened Plants in Australia will be useful for planning recovery of threatened plants. Post-fire seed collection should be minimal to allow species to replenish natural seed banks. Once that has happened, any seed collection, storage, propagation and planting should follow the ANPC’s Plant Germplasm Conservation in Australia and the soon to be re-released FloraBank Guidelines.
In the January 2020 issue of ANPC News, we provide some information and links on what you can do to help post-fire recovery of plants and ecological communities, and how you can start sharing your knowledge on post-fire responses. We also provide links to a couple of media items we have published recently, as well as many other bushfire related articles. Hopefully, we can all work together at this difficult time to conserve our plant biodiversity and be better prepared for plant recovery into the future.
In addition, here’s some ANPC Plants and Fire fact sheets I have put together:
We are putting together some resource pages on plants and fire after the devastating 2019/20 Australian bushfires. Find out how plants and ecological communities recover from fire and what we can all do to help, including not dumping garden waste in burnt areas like the photo below. Help us get the word out there! Weeds are one of the biggest threats to plant recovery at this time. Read more.
Stay out of recently burnt areas until it is safe – trees and branches may continue to fall for days, weeks and months after the fire has passed.
When it’s safe to go in the bush, assess the site. Keep to formed tracks and do not walk in areas where plants are regrowing and seedlings emerging as this can damage their recovery and lead to soil erosion.
In the short, medium and long term, carefully assess biodiversity loss and natural plant recovery after the fires, as some species may disappear, but many have mechanisms to cope with fire. Use standardised monitoring techniques so different sites can be compared.
Identify threats to plant recovery such as weeds, grazers and disease.
Use the assessment results to develop a restoration plan. Implement your plan, keep good records about what you do, monitor your site to determine the effectiveness of any restoration actions.
Prioritise assisted natural regeneration actions where necessary within burnt bushland, and at its edges and in unburnt refugia, to control feral predators, herbivores and invasive plants. Planting is rarely needed.
Work with others – join a local bushcare volunteer group, call your local council or local land/catchment management group, collaborate with your local university, join local and national networks.
Learn, communicate. Attending training courses, talk to others in your area, read books, apply for funding if you need assistance. Share your information with others.
Continue to protect burnt areas, as they need time to recover, and unburnt areas too, as these may act as refuges for biodiversity – from which species can repopulate burnt areas.
Don’t plant or seed into burnt and naturally regenerating areas in the period immediately after the fire – wait to see what regenerates in the medium to long term and seek expert advice, before deciding what interventions are needed.
Don’t collect seeds in burnt areas
Don’t take too much seed from unburnt areas.
Don’t clear “dead” plants which may resprout and provide shelter for remaining wildlife.
Don’t dump garden waste or other organic material in the burnt areas. This can do more harm than good
Following the bushfires affecting large parts of Australia in 2019 and 2020, APC is seeking articles describing plant and ecological communities responses to fire (e.g., fire-triggered seed germination, re-sprouting, structural and floristic community changes) and, where applicable, the impact of multiple fires and differing fire intensities, frequencies or seasons on plants and ecological communities. First deadline is 1 February, second deadline 1 May and the third 1 August 2020. Click here for more information.