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18 Jan 2018

Protecting plants at Western Sydney Airport

Construction of the new Western Sydney Airport is planned to start this year. The Australian PlantBank has been engaged as part of an important conservation project for several threatened plants growing at the airport site.


The new airport site is located at Badgerys Creek on land featuring introduced grasses and small areas of native forest and shrubland. The condition of the native vegetation at the site is generally poor but there are pockets of valuable biodiversity. The Western Sydney Airport Flora Propagation Plan will make sure that valuable threatened plant seed and other propagation material is collected and grown at the Australian Botanic Garden (ABG), Mount Annan and available for use in future conservation projects and offsets in the western Sydney region.

Construction of the airport will require the removal of approximately 1,150 hectares of vegetation. Around 318 hectares (approximately 25 per cent) of the area is native vegetation. Scientists and horticulturalists from the Australian PlantBank at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan are highly experienced in western Sydney flora and have advised on plant ecology and propagation ensuring accurate species identification, particularly of endangered and endemic plants.
The surveys identified three important and vulnerable species that have become the focus of seed collection and propagation efforts over the last year. The species are a climbing vine Marsdenia viridiflora subsp. viridiflora, a small, yellow-flowered shrub Pultenaea parviflora and the spiked rice flower Pimelea spicata. 

Seeds and cuttings collected from the plants will be used to grow new stock at the PlantBank ABG nursery, available for future conservation projects  and saved as an insurance population at the Garden.

The Minister for Urban Infrastructure Paul Fletcher and the Federal Member for Hume Angus Taylor recently visited PlantBank and the airport site to see the progress of conservation efforts. 
Minister Fletcher was pleased to see scientific techniques being applied so that "the population of these plant species can be maintained and, where possible. increased to replenish the Cumberland Plain".

"Biodiversity conservation is central to the development of the Western Sydney Airport," Minister Taylor said.

Dr Peter Cuneo, Manager of Seedbank and Restoration Research at the  Australian Botanic Garden sees the airport project as a great example of his team's capacity to provide expertise and support beyond the Garden's perimeter.

"PlantBank is more than just a seed storage vault and research facility," he said. "Our diverse and talented seedbank and nursery team work on site and in the field to support all aspects of plant conservation theory and practice. We are a hub for the protection of native plants in NSW and we love what we do."

Science and conservation at Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan

The Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan is Australia’s largest botanic garden, covering 416 hectares. The Garden is a native species native garden and features an amazing living collection of flora from around Australia. The living collection is just the tip of the science and conservation role at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan.

We are at the forefront of plant research, being home to Australian PlantBank  – the Noah’s Ark of the seed world, if you may. The Garden is a bit of a hidden gem but absolutely worth the visit.

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