Just like money can be withdrawn from a bank, our plants are 'withdrawn' for use in research, ecological restoration or translocation. Seeds and cuttings are 'deposited' at the Australian PlantBank from native bushland, stock plants or seed production areas, adding to our future savings.
On the brink
Even in a country as biodiverse as Australia, less than 20% of the land area is part of the National Reserve System. In NSW, we have an excellent network of national parks and conservation reserves, however with impacts such as climate change and sea level rises, even national parks will not necessarily provide long term security for our native plant and animal diversity.
Locally, the Cumberland Plain Woodland and surrounding grassland is an important habitat for local wildlife, providing food and shelter. Replanting native species into the woodland can be a very labour-intensive process. But using ‘direct seeding’, seeds are spread over the soil and nature does the rest! This method uses enormous quantities of seeds. Scientists at the Australian PlantBank work with the ecological restoration industry to maintain the supply of seeds, and ensure the best conditions for germination and plant establishment.
Understanding native plant biology: in the field and laboratory
Our seed, living plant and tissue culture collections are available for research and enhancement of plant communities. Understanding our native plants is crucial to restoring and conserving plants on the brink, and key to using the seeds for future ecological restoration. So our scientists document the biology of each species through studies in the field, the laboratory and in cultivation.
Green genes for the future
We tend to take our Australian bush for granted, but what we have is unique, and our plants are the result of millions of years of evolution in a harsh and dynamic environment.
The compounds and genes within plants have been on a unique journey through time, and could well yield important pharmaceuticals or chemical compounds.
Some native plants are the wild relatives of crops which are cultivated for food and fibre. "Australia is home to close relatives of major food crops including rice (Oryza spp.), sorghum (Sorghum spp.), soybean (Glycine spp.) and many others" (Offord et al (2017) Australian Journal of Botany 65: 601- 608). Plant breeders regularly use genes in these wild crop relatives to improve vigour and disease resistance.