Tuesday, 8 June 2010

$15 Million Investment in Mount Annan Botanic Garden PlantBank



Today's NSW State Government budget included $15.5 million for the construction of a new seedbank and scientific facility at Mount Annan Botanic Garden. You may not hear about it today but we'll promote it more widely tomorrow. This is exciting news.

PlantBank is the first of our Botanic Gardens Bicentenary projects, a selection of scientific, conservation and landscape improvements to the Botanic Gardens Trust's three botanic gardens and Domain leading up to 2016.

The total cost of PlantBank will be $19.8 million, with $4.3 million to be raised by the Botanic Gardens Trust and Royal Botanic Gardens Foundation over the next few years.

Here is some background information gathered for our media release, to be issued tomorrow morning:

"PlantBank at Mount Annan Botanic Garden will safeguard the future of our precious plant species through ‘seed-banking’, research and information-sharing. It will bring together the best science and the best scientists to recover degraded landscapes, generating new knowledge for better conservation planning and responding to climate change.

The 2800 square metre PlantBank building constructed over the next three years at a total cost of $19.8 million will be a model of sustainable design, including thermal-efficient underground vaults where millions of seeds will be deep-frozen as the ultimate insurance policy against loss of biodiversity. It will be one of the largest seed banks in the world, and the biggest native seed bank in Australia.

Under carefully controlled conditions most Australian seeds can be preserved for decades and in many cases centuries. For those that can’t, like many rainforest species, we need research urgently to find ways to preserve seeds for future restoration projects.

Up to half the world’s plant species may be under threat of extinction. In Australia over ten per cent are already listed as endangered due to land clearance, introduced weeds, feral animals and diseases. Climate change is likely to increase this number substantially as plants are unable to adapt to increased temperatures as well as intensifying drought, flood and fire patterns.

PlantBank’s stored seeds will not only provide a insurance policy for our flora, they will provide the raw material for research in its state-of-the-art laboratories and glasshouses.

Knowledge of how, when and why seeds germinate, and the conditions under which plants will or will not grow and disseminate seed, is critical in developing effective strategies to protect our State’s biodiversity.

We still have a long way to go in understanding the extraordinary, sometimes bizarre, mechanisms that Australian plant species have evolved to survive this harsh land.

When disaster does strike and it is necessary to revegetate degraded land or reintroduce species that have become rare or extinct in the wild, the stored seeds and knowledge of their survival strategies offer the most immediate and cost-effective protection against species extinction and the resultant collapse of ecosystems.

The facility will be a hub for a broad range of conservation and other plant research from Botanic Gardens staff as well as collaborators from local and international universties. It will draw together experts in many disciplines
to study our rich and valuable native flora.

PlantBank will also usher in a new generation of research facilities in Sydney where visitors can interact directly with scientists. Viewing glass into labs, indoor and outdoor classrooms, and interactive displays will allow locals and tourists to Western Sydney to become our next generation of scientists, conservationists and environmentally responsible citizens.

During its construction, PlantBank will create 123 jobs for the Macarthur region. The forecast economic benefits over the next two decades are four times ($64.8 million) the capital investment.

Although PlantBank will be built from new, the science of PlantBank will build on the impressive collections and research of the NSW Seedbank at Mount Annan Botanic Garden and the preserved and living collections held on in the Royal Botanic Gardens and Mount Tomah Botanic Garden.

Working out of sub-standard and aging temporary facilities the NSW Seedbank has collected seeds from almost 40 per cent of the 5800 seed-bearing plant species native to NSW. It is a partner of the Millennium Seed Bank Project, a global effort to collect, research and store all the world’s seed-bearing flora, based at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew UK

PlantBank will allow an expansion of innovative conservation research on the rainforest species of New South Wales and Queensland. Occupying only 0.3% of Australia’s land mass, rainforests are treasure troves of 50% of its plant diversity.

Most rainforest species cannot be seedbanked using traditional methods of drying. PlantBank facilities will include technologies such as cryo-preservation, where material is stored in in liquid nitrogen at temperatures of minus 196 degrees celsius. Popular with American billionaires hoping to be revived after death, cryo-preservation may be the only hope for many Australian rainforest species."

Image: An artist's impression - what PlantBank will look like in 2013.

1 comment:

Tim Pearce said...

Hi Tim
Congratulations to you and the Botanic Gardens Trust on securing this significant State Governmemnt support for the vital new PlantBank facility.

It's been a pleasure and great fun working with the whole team at Mt. Annan over the past decade. You have been exemplary partners in the global Millennium Seed Bank Partnership and I look forward to continuing our collaboration into the new era for plant conservation in NSW.
Tim Pearce