Australia has a new weapon in the fight to save its native animals and plants.
For the first time, businesses, governments and local communities have formally joined forces to help conserve Australia’s landscapes by focusing on the value of native seeds.
The result is the Native Seed and Landscape Restoration Strategy, which will help reduce the risk of extinction of native flora and fauna,. These benefits are especially valuable and urgent given the increasingly extreme natural disasters Australia faces.
The strategy – which is launched today for a four-week public consultation – is a collaborative effort by 25 organisations and coordinated by Project Phoenix, a $5 million initiative to build and secure native seed and plant supply to restore landscapes. Project Phoenix is one element of the Australian Government’s $50 million Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery package, introduced after the 2019–2020 bushfires.
At least 272 native plant species were affected by the fires, with 22 of those now listed as ‘critically endangered’ and 47 suffering a habitat loss of 80% or more, according to a CSIRO study. The knock-on effect of such plant devastation to animals and birds can be catastrophic. They cannot survive without their food sources and habitat, which is why native seeds are so important.
How the strategy will help native animals and plants
The 10-year strategy will invigorate native seed banks – conservation seed banks and commercial ones – and for the first time connect the thousands of organisations, groups and individuals who deal with native seeds.
Members of this native seed sector range from seed source managers, such as seed collectors and land owners, to those who store and supply them, such as seed banks and commercial businesses. They also include those who use native seeds, such as Landcare groups regenerating the bush, state and territory governments greening transport corridors, companies in the mining sector implementing site rehabilitation plans and even people renovating gardens.
More native seeds and a better managed and coordinated sector will enable Australia to better restore landscapes and support biodiversity, especially after natural disasters.
Project Phoenix’s manager, Samantha Craigie, said some plant species “don’t have the chance to regenerate naturally or set seed between extreme events, such as fires or floods, and so are lost to the landscape”.
“Having those seeds in a coordinated nationwide network of native seed banks – which we have not had up to now – will give us the opportunity to re-introduce those native species into the landscape when we need to,” she said.
The native seed sector needs to be able to regionally source, store and use seeds more easily. Seed buyers need access to a wider variety and higher quality of seed. Implementing this strategy could boost the native seed supply for Australia.
The strategy implementation will also provide a nationwide forum for everyone in the native seed sector to share knowledge and ideas. “A successful seed solution that a group in, say, Broken Hill have devised might also work for regeneration in western Victoria,” Samantha said. “This forum and other platforms such as the Florabank website which has been revitalised by Project Phoenix will allow them to learn from each other and swap ideas and techniques much faster and more frequently.”
Project Phoenix encourages everyone in the native seed sector to read the strategy and give their feedback during the consultation period.
Better bushfire-mitigation planting
The strategy could also help to reduce the impact of bushfires. Lessons learned from the 2019–2020 bushfires include re-thinking what types of vegetation are planted close to roads, especially if the road is a community’s only transport route to safety.
“What is planted along these roads really matters when it comes to bushfires,” said Samantha. “Rather than having trees next to key roads, we could instead have shrub or ground layer species with trees set back to reduce the fire intensity and minimise the risk of trees falling across escape routes.. Well-stocked and well-managed native seed banks give us a much wider set of options for fire-mitigation planting.”
Native Seed and Landscape Restoration Strategy – Quick Facts
The strategy will:
- bring the thousands of players in Australia’s native seed sector together for the first time
- manage and coordinate native seed and plant capability more efficiently and effectively
- better protect Australia’s vital native seed resource
- create a native seed system that is:
o visible and connected
o enabled by successful enterprises and thriving communities
o supported by programs and initiatives
o providing sustainable native seed supply
- give the native seed sector a national voice to inform government policy on landscape regeneration and rehabilitation
Notes for editors
· Project Phoenix is part of the Australian Government’s $50 million Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery package.
· Greening Australia is coordinating Project Phoenix. Greening Australia is an environmental not-for-profit enterprise that conserves and restores Australia’s landscapes to restore natural balance.
· Project Phoenix only deals with native seeds – species that grow in Australia naturally and are endemic. It does not deal with cultivars, only what are called ‘wild types’ – seeds which can be collected from the landscape.