Plants on brink of extinction gain protection in Kangaroo Island’s first Seed Production Garden

09 July 2022

Kangaroo Island’s threatened flora is being given a life-line thanks to a new Seed Production Garden.

In a bid to safeguard plants from extinction, the Threatened Flora Seed Production Garden will grow multiple populations of the island’s at-risk species, then collect their seed for banking and biodiversity recovery projects on the island.

Launched on 9 July 2022, it is a partnership between the SA Seed Conservation Centre, the Nature Conservation Society of SA and Bio R.

SA Seed Conservation Centre botanist, Dan Duval, said that the new Garden is the culmination of years of prior work, and an innovative way to protect the Island’s threatened flora.

“For 18 years, we have been surveying KI’s threatened flora and collecting their seeds for safekeeping at low temperature storage. We have been undertaking germination research and propagating plants from those banked seed collections,” said Dan.

“This past work has underpinned our ability to create the Seed Production Garden, which will provide an ongoing, genetically diverse seed source that will act as an insurance against future extinction that may occur through climate change impacts such as fire, drought and flood,” Dan continued.

Plants on brink of extinction gain protection in Kangaroo Island’s first Seed Production Garden

Seeds from rare plants have been collected from different locations across the island, such as this Gahnia hystrix.

Plants on brink of extinction gain protection in Kangaroo Island’s first Seed Production Garden

Hundreds of threatened plants have been propagated from seed by the SA Seed Conservation Centre botanists, ready to be planted into the new Seed Production Garden.

The 5000m2 herbivore-proof exclosure (a fully fenced outdoor area) will see more than 60 plant species nurtured in conditions tailored to their preferred habitat, including areas with different soil types, raised beds, rocky outcrops, wetland areas and ponds.

With only a quarter of the space currently landscaped and planted, additional project work will see more exciting conservation outcomes in years to come, working with the KI community.

Nature Conservation Society of SA CEO, Kirsty Bevan, said that the next step of the Garden’s success will be community-driven through the ongoing contributions of an inaugural Friends of KI Threatened Flora group.

“A dedicated team of community members and landholders, in the form of a Friends Group, are keen to be directly involved in managing the Seed Production Garden and furthering research to support the recovery of threatened flora across the island. We are still seeking funding to support the Friends Group in reaching the full potential of this site,” Kirsty said.

Group members will be upskilled and mobilised to undertake field searches for target species, collect seed, monitor plants, propagate and translocate species from the Garden to the wild, giving KI’s natural habitat a biodiversity boost.

Plants on brink of extinction gain protection in Kangaroo Island’s first Seed Production Garden

The Garden includes raised beds, a pond, wetland area and rocky outcrops, with more structure to come. The Garden will now be planted and maintained by the Friends group.

Bio R’s Penny Paton, said the Seed Production Garden is also expected to serve as a place of education, where researchers, schools, the community and eco-tourists can learn about KI plants and the importance of conservation.

“There will be interpretation and specific landscaping to narrate the unique biology and adaptation strategies of species and how they interact with their environment, including wildlife. It will also be a place where research can be undertaken into pollination and seed biology, and a plant’s fire response,” Penny said.

Following the devastating 2019/20 bushfires on Kangaroo Island, the Nature Conservation Society of SA partnered with the SA Seed Conservation Centre on the project ‘Mobilising and supporting a community-led fire recovery for Kangaroo Islands threatened flora’, funded by the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery project and supported by the Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery Program for Wildlife and their Habitat.

With funding from the Australian Government and supported by the Australian Seed Bank Partnership (ASBP) Island, Alps and Forests – Multiregional Seed Conservation for Bushfire Recovery Project, the SA Seed Conservation Centre developed the Kangaroo Island Threatened Flora Seed Production Garden, with significant support offered through the generous contribution of land on Cygnet Park Sanctuary by the Paton Family, and project assistance from Bio-R and the Nature Conservation Society of SA.

The Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium are also grateful to Sealink for their support in getting our scientists to where they need to be.

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