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.
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.
Macquarie University Research Fellow and report lead author Nola Hancock, says “By using an evidence-based approach, this project can assist government and industry in planning the way forward for conserving and restoring Australia’s unique landscape”.
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.
‘Worryingly, the report highlights the concerns of the sector that future demand for seed will be difficult to meet from the wild’ says 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’ says 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 Australian Native Seed Survey Report is being 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.
Healthy Seed Project Partners
Australian Association of Bush Regenerators
Australian Seed Bank Partnership
Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research
Society for Ecological Restoration
The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney