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The Story of the Travelling Plants

26 Apr 2022

Did you know that in Australia, 1355 flora species are under threat?

One way to prevent them becoming extinct is ‘translocation’ – the intentional transfer of plants or regenerative plant material from a collection or a natural population to a new location.

In 2020, the Ross Trust committed to providing $53,763 to the Australian Network for Plant Conservation for its unique ‘Plants going Places’ project. Initially, the project aimed to run translocation workshops in regional Victoria, however the pandemic necessitated a change to webinars. The network is also using the funding to produce video site tours and podcasts. 

“There is no one else in Australia addressing the need for capacity building and education in threatened plant translocation,” says ANPC president Tony Auld.

“Translocation projects can be expensive, and if they fail, there is a real risk that the species may go extinct. To ensure that projects are successful, everyone taking part in translocation projects needs to be informed of best practice guidelines.”

Tony said that plant translocation rates had doubled in the past decade, however it was still a relatively new and rapidly expanding field.

“Translocation success depends on careful scoping, planning and execution,” he said. “This project is keeping keep scientists, practitioners, environmental officers, policy makers, consultants and volunteers working in this area at the cutting edge of this important technique.”

The network says the 2019-20 catastrophic bushfires had a huge impact on unique native plants and ecological communities. While most Australian flora, including threatened species, had evolved to cope with fire, recovering by re-sprouting or seed germination, some plants are sensitive to fire, especially when fires are too frequent or intense, or if drought persists, and may need help to recover. 

“At this stage, we don’t know which threatened plants have been lost, which will re-sprout or re-seed, and which will need assistance,” Tony said. “Although many will regenerate without our help, in some locations assessment of natural plant recovery may identify the need for cautious and well-planned human intervention.”

Ross Trust CEO Sarah Hardy said it was an exciting environmental initiative.

“We see it as addressing the real need to educate and inform the community on the translocation of threatened plants, to benefit both environmental scientists and practitioners, as well as the future of Victoria’s threatened plant species,” she said.

The videos and podcasts are being developed with in-kind guidance from the University of Melbourne, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the University of NSW and will form part of a PhD being undertaken by ANPC Committee member Chantelle Doyle.

The first video, on the Spiny Rice Flower, is available to watch and you can read more about the project.