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Rainforest seed conservation project

The Rainforest Seed Conservation Project aims to increase the global capacity to conserve rainforest plants by investigating the storability of seeds of Australian species and developing methods for preserving those not suitable for seedbanking.

Project summary

Australian rainforest plants are under threat from habitat fragmentation, weeds, disease and climate change. Seedbanking is a cost effective way of conserving vulnerable plants, but not all species can survive the necessary drying and freezing.

This program focusses on assessing the storage potential of seeds from Australian rainforest species, storing those seeds suitable for seedbanking and looking for alternative conservation measures for those that are not.

The work of this project is important as it will inform the restoration and management of Australia’s vulnerable rainforests.

Until this project commenced, little was known about how many of these species could be conserved using seedbanking techniques.

This is a large and complex project!

It starts with collecting plant material, particularly seeds from the wild as well as from cultivated sources. Our target area is the East Coast of Australia, particularly New South Wales. Our collectors spend weeks in the field often in hot and humid weather tracking down rare and common species to bring back to the Australian PlantBank.

We aim to identify the best way to grow and store plant material of each species we collect, for future conservation purposes.

This might be restoration of a threatened species in the wild or sustainable use of rainforest species with value as crops or medicine.

Rainforest species are often highly adapted to their environments and behave very differently away from their natural environments. So different techniques are needed for ‘ex situ’ - away from the natural site - conservation. Some species have seeds that can be easily stored in the seed bank. Others require tissue culture or cryogenic storage for long-term conservation. 

Our eventual aim is to make information on conservation of rainforest plants publicly available and to work with others with a stake in conserving our rainforests.


Project aims

  • Investigating germination requirements and seedbanking potential of individual species 

  • Banking seeds that can be conserved by seedbanking and developing alternative conservation measures for those that can’t be seedbanked

  • Providing plants for display, interpretation and reintroduction 

  • Passing on lessons learned to the wider community.

Commencing in January 2013, the Rainforest Seed Conservation Project is ongoing.