Seed-Banks to Save Native Plants From New Climate Regimes?

Sydney Morning Herald
November 25, 2008

National safeguards for native plants
Stephanie Peatling

A NATIONAL seed bank of native plants will be
developed by botanic gardens as a way of saving
vulnerable species from climate change.

About 7 per cent of native plants are considered
at risk from rising temperatures, prompting the
eight botanic gardens in capital cities to launch
the conservation strategy.

“The botanic gardens are places of immense
knowledge about how to grow and propagate plants,
to reintroduce species and restore ecosystems,”
the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, said at
yesterday’s launch of the plan.

Australia’s rich biodiversity includes about
20,000 plant species, which make up 10 per cent
of the world’s plant species.

Most are unique to Australia.

Although botanic gardens already maintain seed
banks, they will co-ordinate their collections to
make sure plants believed to be most at risk
receive priority safekeeping.

The gardens will also begin an education program
for the 13.4 million visitors they receive each
year. It will teach people about plants’
vulnerability to global warming.

Home conservation techniques and how to keep
gardens growing despite a drying climate will
also be taught.

“The early impacts of climate change are already
having a significant impact on where plant
species can live,” the action plan prepared by
the gardens says. “As temperatures and rainfall
change, many species may not be able to survive
and breed because the environment will change
faster than the plants’ ability to adapt.”

Despite the insurance strategy of the seed banks,
it is still expected that some plants will become
extinct and that stocks of others will become

“Our botanic gardens have a proud history, dating
back to the days when they helped the early
European settlers find food crops and ornamental
plants that would survive the harsh, unfamiliar
conditions,” Mr Garrett said.

“Š It is now time to muster all their resources,
skills and activities in a co-ordinated strategy
to support plant conservation.”

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