The Australian Network for Plant Conservation: Developments since Rio.

Jeanette Mill

National Coordinator
Australian Network for Plant Conservation


Home | Contents | Abstract | The Australian Network for Plant Conservation | Guidelines | Germplasm | Translocation | In Situ | Education | National Endangered Flora Collection | Regional Groups | Conferences | Structure and Funding | International | References


Abstract

At the Third International Botanic Gardens Conservation Congress a paper by Richardson and Meredith outlined the early development of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC). The ANPC has grown to over 300 members encompassing government, industry and community. The focus of the Network remains on integrating in situ and ex situ approaches to plant conservation, and maximising stakeholder input into setting and carrying out objectives. Three conferences have been held at which members have set the priorities for the ANPC including:
  1. The production of guidelines for germplasm conservation and threatened plant translocation. Working groups of experts from around Australia, representing botanic gardens, conservation agencies, community groups, primary industries and researchers, collaborated on the documents, which have been supported by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council.
  2. Following the success of the above, guidelines are to be produced for in situ management. They are to focus on ecosystem management and be used in advance of the need to translocate.
  3. The Endangered Plant Conservation Techniques Course, first conducted in 1995.
  4. The National Endangered Flora Collection which coordinates the efforts of botanic gardens and others maintaining collections of endangered flora, and acts as a resource for researchers, recovery programs etc.
  5. . Regional groups to encourage networking at the bioregional level. Groups are proving effective in promoting local integrated management and community involvement.

Increasing international recognition for the ANPC is reflected in the offer by the IUCN Species Survival Commission for the ANPC to act as the Australasian Plant Specialist Group.

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The Australian Network for Plant Conservation

The Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) was in its infancy when two of the founders, Lyn Meredith and Mark Richardson, presented a paper at the Third International Botanic Gardens Conservation Congress in Rio. The Network has now entered its eighth year. During that time many developments have occurred in plant conservation from the global to the local scale. The recent publication of the first Global Red List of Threatened Plants being one of the most significant. This assessment of the state of the world’s flora lists Australia as having 14.8% of its flora globally rare, threatened or extinct.

Biodiversity conservation strategies have been introduced right down to a local level in response to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The issue of conservation of ecological communities is being tackled with the declaration of a number of endangered ecological communities in recent times in Australia.

A multiplicity of local groups have sprouted, enthusiastically fencing, planting and protecting native vegetation.

A map of community greening groups in the suburbs of Melbourne was produced by Greening Australia about five years ago. There are 134 groups on the map. Today there would probably be many more. The Society for Growing Australian Plants, or Australian Plants Society as they are now known to reflect their growing interest in plant conservation, has thousands of members Australia-wide.

The Convention on Biological Diversity and resultant strategies emphasise a multi-faceted approach to conservation. The National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity includes bioregional planning and management, conservation outside protected areas, ex-situ conservation, integrating biological diversity conservation and natural resource management, improving our knowledge, education and training, information exchange, technical and scientific cooperation, involving the community and Australia's international role amongst the key areas to be addressed in achieving effective conservation. The development of ANPC and its approach has been no exception, and was included in Australia’s National Report to the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. This reflects the effectiveness of actively promoting the involvement of all stakeholders in the development of the Network.

From its inception the ANPC has acted on the philosophies of

  1. Integrating in situ and ex situ approaches to plant conservation
  2. Including the range of stakeholders in the membership of the Network.

This following chart illustrates the current breakdown of ANPC membership, and graphically illustrates the success of the ANPC in achieving these goals.


Membership includes important land managers such as local councils and the Department of Defence, state and national conservation agencies, all major botanic gardens and many regional gardens, industry groups such as mining and forestry, researchers, educators, landholders, zoos and a host of community groups and individuals.

The mission statement of the ANPC is:

To promote and develop plant conservation in Australia.

The challenge for the ANPC has been to act at all levels to coordinate the multiplicity of approaches to plant conservation in Australia, and contribute to its development. All members have the opportunity to set the objectives of the Network at the biennial conferences. Four national conferences have now been held, and from these the following outcomes have flowed:

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Guidelines

Figure 2.

ANPC Germplasm and Translocation Guidelines

 

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Germplasm

Germplasm Conservation Guidelines for Australia have been developed to in response to the need for:

The Guidelines are subtitled “An Introduction to the Principles and Practices for Seed and Germplasm Banking of Australian Species”, and include such topics as:

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Translocation

Guidelines for the Translocation of Threatened Plants in Australia have also been procuced. These Guidelines were developed in response to the need to provide best practice technical guidance to those undertaking reintroductions and other types of translocations.

Translocation is a complex conservation measure which can be either beneficial or detrimental to the long-term conservation of the taxon, and the habitat into which it is being translocated. If a translocation is unsuccessful it may be impossible to retrieve the habitat.

Tranlsocations are often unsuccessful, some reasons for lack of success being:

The Translocation guidelines focus on techniques and issues once a decision to translocate has been made, and cover:

Members who are specialists in the respective areas formed working groups to collaborate in producing the Guidelines. This expertise was drawn from conservation agencies, community greening groups, botanic gardens, primary industries and research organisations.

The Guidelines have been supported by the Australia and New Zealand Environment and Conservation ministerial Council’s Standing Committee on Conservation. The first print run of each has been distributed, and a second larger print run has just been completed. They have been successfully incorporated into management practices and are influencing funding, policy and legislation implementation. For example in NSW where the 1995 Threatened Species Conservation act has a strong focus on the development process, land managers proposing translocations are being directed towards the Guidelines.

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In Situ

The underlying premise stated in all ANPC Guidelines is that ex situ measures should never be considered as an alternative to in situ conservation. Therefore the next step, as concluded by the 1997 ANPC conference in Coffs Harbour, is to produce guidelines for in situ conservation. These guidelines are to focus on ecosystem management and will include management techniques and when to apply them, survey methods, fire research applications, case studies and community consultation and involvement.

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Education

Figure 3.

ANPC Plant Conservation Techniques Course. John Neldner demonstrates survey techniques.

Photograph by Jeanette Mill.

Figure 4.

Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens staff demonstrate how to make smoked water, used in stimulating germination.

Photograph by Jeanette Mill.

The Plant Conservation Techniques Course was first conducted in 1995, and was inspired by the International Diploma Course in Plant Conservation Techniques run by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The course runs for eight days and is aimed at plant conservation practitioners from government, industry and community groups. The range of topics covered includes:

Presenters include national and international specialists, and local expertise is used where possible. Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service will be hosting the 1998 course, and it is hoped to produce a manual to enable members to run the course in their regions.

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National Endangered Flora Collection

One of the earliest ANPC activities was to document the holdings of plants and other germplasm by members and others around Australia. This became known collectively as the National Endangered Flora Collection (NEFC). Currently around 200 of Australia’s 371 nationally endangered taxa are represented in the collection, with 42 participating institutions and individuals. One of its primary uses is as a planning tool for collection holders to prioritise their conservation activities. This is important in ensuring taxa are well represented in collections. By encouraging use of cultivated material where appropriate, pressure from unneccesary collecting is taken off wild populations.

The Collection is an important resource for research, recovery actions and education and provides a source of material and expertise.

The NEFC database documents taxon name, state/s in which the taxon occurs or has historically occurred, collection holder, whether the material is of wild, cultivated or unknown origin, whether the identification has been verified and a voucher specimen lodged with a herbarium, whether material is available, and whether there is a project being conducted on the taxon.

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Regional Groups

Figure 5.

Translocated plants of the threatened Eucalyptus pulverulenta, on a rural property in NSW.

Photograph by Jeanette Mill.

Regional groups have been established as a major mechanism for community involvement and to implement ANPC objectives at the local level.

Groups vary markedly in their mode of operation, being locally driven and coordinated. The emphasis is on bioregions, and several groups straddle state borders.

Field trips are conducted to a range of sites from roadsides and cemetaries to farmers’ properties. Sites of remnant vegetation are assessed, and conservation plans are formulated, with networking of stakeholders very much the focus. Seminars enable members to inform eachother and the local community of conservation options and initiatives. Most importantly, the conservation process is personalised, breaking down the barriers often perceived between the players, over a barbeque or shared admiration of a beautiful plant.

Some groups act as a focal point for matching projects with volunteer input of time and expertise, for example the Botanical Guardians scheme in Tasmania. Training is provided and volunteers participate in such activities as monitoring, replanting, surveys and community education.

One recent field trip of the Regional Group in the Central West Slopes of NSW was to a rural property, which is home to a population of the threatened Eucalyptus pulverulenta. The property owner has entered into a conservation agreement, administered by New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, which enables the protection of the stand in perpetuity. She is an enthusiastic member of the local Landcare group, and their planting adviser. The planting practises of the Landcare group are to be reviewed, so as to avoid possible genetic pollution of the naturally occurring populations by plants propagated and used for revegetation by the Landcare group. This is a dramatic illustration of the need for the Translocation guidelines, and the use of local networking to effect change.

One regional group was privileged to host a talk by Christopher Willis, Project Coordinator for the Southern African Botanical Diversity Network (SABONET) on his recent visit to Australia. This visit highlighted the importance of networking on a global scale, with a Memorandum of Understanding between SABONET and ANPC being drafted.

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Conferences

The Fourth ANPC National Conference will be held in November 1999. The proposed themes for the conference are in situ conservation, regional conservation, conservation of ecological communities, education and integration of plant and animal conservation. The conference will be held in a region straddling the states of Victoria and New South Wales, in the upper catchment of one of Australia’s major rivers, the Murray River. The Murray is part of a river system which drains one third of the continent, more than a million square kilometres, and the catchment provides irrigation for Australia’s food bowl. The region is described as one of the most altered landscapes in the country, with poorly conserved fragmented vegetation (Johnson, G., per comm.). Strong ANPC regional networking has been occurring, and it is hoped to develop the concept of regional conservation planning using a bioregional framework.

One of the major catalytic factors in the success of the ANPC integrated networking model is the use of biennial conferences as the means by which ANPC objectives are set.

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Structure and Funding

The ANPC organisational structure has developed over time, and now includes an Advisory Committee, Coordinating Office, Working Groups, and voluntary regional coordinators.

The ANPC will shortly become an incorporated association. Therefore, in addition to and encompassing the above structure, there will be an ANPC management committee, elected by the membership.

Funding for ANPC activities comes from a variety of sources. The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a major supporter, providing office and infrastructural support, and donating around 1/3 of ANPC’s staff resources. Funding from the Endangered Species Program of Environment Australia constitutes around 26% of resources, membership fees and donations 6% and members’ in kind support for projects 49%. This latter figure is a graphic illustration that ANPC operates as a true network, and reflects the huge collaborative effort of members in achieving the outcomes of the Network. Without any of these sources of support ANPC would struggle, without members’ input ANPC would not be a Network.

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International

ANPC has played a role in it’s own region, in providing assistance to networks in Indonesia and New Zealand. This regional role has been further consolidated by the ANPC becoming the Australasian Plant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

This conference, the network meetings and the following SSC Plant Conservation Subcommittee meeting represent a perfect opportunity for formulating some innovative ways for networks to network with and support eachother internationally. The ANPC has benefitted from the fostering role of BGCI, CPC and IUCN, and in turn has been able to assist others.

This session and the network meetings at this conference could consider some recommendations to develop the networking of the diverse range of excellent plant conservation networks globally, and encourage the development of new networks.

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References


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