Australia is one of only eighteen 'mega diverse’ countries as identified by the United Nations and therefore by definition contains a significant number of the earth’s species. Australia's native biodiversity is of global significance. The total number of Australian species comprises 15% of the world's total with a high proportion of these being endemic to the continent. However, threatened by massive land clearance since European settlement, significant problems from invasive species, increasingly aggressive pests and pathogens and with serious implications from a changing climate, 23% of Australian floral species are listed as under threat of extinction.
Australia is truly a land of contrasts. The extreme dryland of the "Red Centre" is a world away from the wet tropical forests of Northern Queensland and the alpine zones of the Snowy Mountains. This ancient landscape, having escaped the recent glacial ages, displays a mosaic of vegetation and habitats all very different from each other and has given rise to high levels of endemism across the continent. This is especially so in the South Western part of Western Australia, well known as a plant biodiversity hotspot of global significance.
Australia is making a major contribution to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership (MSBP) through the Australian Seed Bank Partnership (ASBP). Scientists from Kew’s MSBP are sharing their expertise with members of the ASBP in the six States and the Northern Territory on seed collection processes, conservation and research. The overall priority is to bank plant species considered rare or threatened in order to dramatically enhance the conservation of the Australian flora.
The MSB has worked in Australia since 2000, first with individual seed banks and conservation organisations across the continent, then since 2006 with the Australian Seed Bank Partnership (ASBP) which brought together the different seed banks under one umbrella. In 2013 the last remaining territory, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) signed up with the MSBP to cover conservation of species managed by the Director of National Parks on the Australian islands of Christmas Island, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.
The ASBP ensures a programme of collaboration between research groups from each State and territory, as well as communication between partners as to species priorities and collections. The ASBP has led to strong in-country collaboration and sharing of efforts, experiences, and training, raising the profile of seed conservation significantly at a national level. ASBP is operating as a project under the Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens (CHABG) and has evolved into a major contributor to plant conservation on the continent.
Kew has partnership agreements with each of the States and territories as well as with CHABG, these outline the nature of our collaboration and make explicit the uses of the collections and associated data and the sharing of benefits arising from the collaborations.
A number of projects have been undertaken as a result of Kew’s collaboration with ASBP, the current projects are listed below. All have centred on these common outcomes:
Since the start of the collaboration, Australia has contributed 11,500 seed collections to the MSB, representing over 8,700 taxa.
Funder – Garfield Weston Foundation
Australia joined the Global Tree Seed Bank Project in Phase 1 and is contributing to this ambitious project which aims to collect, bank and conserve >3,000 of the world’s rarest, most endangered and most useful tree species, saving them from extinction. The Australian Seed Bank Partnership (ASBP) has a collection target of 380 species for the Global Tree Seed Bank Project during four years (2014-2017).
This project is supported by donors to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Partnership.
Funding from the MSB helped initiate the ASBP 1000 Species Project in 2012, and has continued to support the project to date. The priorities of this project are to:
Target species include plants of value for food security (e.g. crop wild relatives), horticulture (e.g. new ornamental species), industry (e.g. pharmaceutically active species) and habitat restoration.
Funder – Grantham Foundation
This project, which started in 2016, aims to collect plants that use C4 photosynthetic pathways, along with C3 sister species, to increase the provision of material for research into the genes and proteins resulting in C4 pathways. Over two years, ASBP will focus on building wild seed resources of 40 species new to the MSBP, with the potential of 10 additional opportunistic collections.
MSBP partners in Israel are also involved in the C4 project.
|Australia||Australian Seed Bank Partnership (ASBP)|
|Australian Capital Territory||Australian National Botanic Gardens|
|New South Wales||Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust|
|Northern Territory||George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens|
Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Brisbane City Council
|South Australia||Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium, Adelaide|
Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens,
|Victoria||Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria|
Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (DBCA)
- Threatened Flora Seed Centre
- Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, Kings Park
For further information please contact Elinor Breman, Conservation Partnership Coordinator for Australia at the MSB.