30 June 2022
THE ART OF FINDING FLORA - A DAY IN-THE-FIELD FOR THE SURVIVE AND THRIVE PROJECT AT NAMADGI NATIONAL PARK
By Rebecca Lyngdoh-Reye and Georgia Davis
In early 2020, we watched over an eerie glowing mountain silhouette as bushfires burnt 80% of the landscape in Namadgi National Park, a protected area in southwest ACT. Two years later, as both local citizens and Canberra-based WWF staff, we had the chance to join a seed collecting expedition with the National Parks Conservation Trust and the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) and their team of volunteers working on the Survive and Thrive project.
On our day in-the-field we traversed a diverse alpine landscape at the base of Mt Ginini, complete with eucalypt forests and spongy moss bogs. We identified plants and collected seeds in a section of the unburnt landscape to build up the ANBG’s seed bank and help safeguard Australia's unique flora for future generations. The main collection site was in a wetland that also happens to be the largest intact bog and fen community in the Australian Alps.
We witnessed ANBG’s staff and volunteers use their detailed knowledge of a vast array of plant species. With an incredible eye for detail, they honed in on 12 priority plant species made vulnerable due to the fires. Both Georgia and I come from a social science background, so seeing ecologists at work in-the-field was a really impressive new experience for us. Luckily, under their professional guidance, we were put to good use finding plants and collecting seeds. On the trip, our group managed to find three of the 12 priority species: Euphrasia collina subsp. speciosa, Epacris petrophila and Celmisia sp. Pulchella.
Fortunately, the plants were safely found within a protected national park. If these species were outside national parks there is a good chance they might have been lost by now.
We have an opportunity to help save plants and animals for the long term because they were in a protected area. That’s why Australia should sign on to the ’30 by 30’ goal as part of Biodiversity COP.
That means protecting at least 30% of every ecosystem on land by 2030 and effectively managing existing protected areas so we can Regenerate Australia.
The seeds will be held at The National Seed Bank (NSB) at the ANBG – an initiative that plays a critical role in scientific research and future conservation of our flora. The team conducts research to understand how to make best use of banked collections. These collections act as a long-term insurance for species but have to be regularly tested to assess the viability of a collection and its germination requirements. Testing ensures that collections are fit for use if the species requires a reintroduction into its natural environment.
Citizen scientists with a love for nature already play an essential role in locating and recording the locations of potentially vulnerable species through NatureMapr, and we encourage all Canberrans to get involved. This information helps professional teams, like those at the ANBG, locate species for seed collection.
How can you help?
• Add your voice as we urge global leaders to take urgent action to protect our iconic biodiversity to ensure the continued existence of our unique wildlife, their habitats and help stem the effects of climate change.
• NatureMapr is an innovative, regionally focused citizen science platform relied on by government, research and environmental organisations across Australia. NatureMapr was founded in 2013 and is proudly Australian made, owned and hosted.