The BGPA has a long standing commitment to recognition and celebration of Aboriginal cultural heritage and respect for Aboriginal people and their connections with Kings Park and Botanic Garden and Bold Park. Promotion of Aboriginal culture to visitors and staff forms part of the BGPA core business and includes a wide range of activities. In 2012/13, over 110 staff participated in one of six half day Aboriginal cultural awareness sessions with hands on activities and training provided by a local Nyoongar family.
A meeting was held with the BGPA Indigenous Reference Group in September 2012 to update the Elders on current BGPA activities and create an opportunity for members to provide their feedback. Also in September, a Boodja Gnarning Family Fun Day was held as part of the 2012 Kings Park Festival to celebrate Aboriginal culture. The day included Aboriginal dance, art and music performances and was extremely popular.
Kings Park Education also promotes Aboriginal culture through education programs developed around the six Nyoongar seasons, delivered by Aboriginal presenters. A new children’s story book written by an Aboriginal employee as part of his cadetship with the BGPA was well advanced during the year and a new education program based around this story was developed for young children.
Other initiatives included a presentation on the Boodja Gnarning interpretive walk trail in Kings Park to an international Botanic Garden education congress and the naming of the access road to Kings Park Education as Kattidj Road, the Nyoongar word meaning to know or to understand.
The BGPA continued to implement strategies identified in the Reconciliation Action Plan 2010-2012. A revised plan for the next five-year period 2013-18 is underway and will be available early in 2013/14.
A Heritage Architect was commissioned to undertake a review of the Kings Park Conservation Plan for the Developed Areas, 2000, to document development works and other changes since the original plan was prepared, update the horticultural planting information and make recommendations for future management. Progress was made on the review with a new plan drafted by June 2013. The Conservation Plan is an important reference document for BGPA staff to ensure elements of cultural heritage significance in the park are appropriately managed for their ongoing preservation.
The BGPA continued to maintain the memorials throughout Kings Park for their long term conservation and to ensure a high standard of presentation for the many memorial ceremonies held throughout the year. Heritage advice was sought on the John Forrest statue in Forrest Roundabout with a short report produced recommending minor preservation works. In addition, the BGPA consulted with representatives from the National Boer War Association regarding a minor upgrade to the South African War Memorial near Fraser Avenue entry. Heritage advice was also sought for this project and a proposed scope of works developed. Timing of this upgrade will depend on the availability of funding.
Biodiversity Conservation and Ecological Restoration
Kings Park Bushland
The BGPA continued programs to conserve native biodiversity within the Kings Park bushland including ecological restoration of disturbed ecosystems on the plateau and the Mt Eliza Escarpment. Surveys of flora, fauna and fungi provided important information for the biodiversity inventory which contributes to the development of management programs, and control of environmental weeds and introduced pests assisted with conservation of local native species.
Fungi surveys undertaken in July 2012 identified 123 species, 29 of which were new records for Kings Park. This brings the total number of fungi species recorded for Kings Park bushland to 215. A reptile survey conducted in Spring 2012 and Autumn 2013 resulted in 18 species captured and identified in the spring survey compared with nine species in the autumn survey, which included juvenile turtle frogs captured following autumn rain. Data collected from this survey is being collated over a five year period and will be analysed in a report on reptile population responses to fire in Kings Park.
Bat species monitoring was conducted during April 2013 using Anabat sound equipment with sponsorship support from Umwelt, an environmental consultancy company. This passive monitoring system records the ultrasonic calls of bats enabling analysis of recordings using a software package to identify species’ ‘vocal finger prints’. Recordings are yet to be assessed to identify species present.
Monitoring of vulnerable species is a valuable measure of species retention or loss based on the premise that the most vulnerable flora are the most likely to be lost from a disturbed ecosystem. All 15 identified vulnerable flora species were recorded as present and three species were incorporated into restoration plantings to enhance their conservation in Kings Park. Five plants of Banksia ilicifolia, a priority species and documented vulnerable flora species, were planted within the Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park site as part of a conservation program. Drafting of individual species management plans commenced for the highest priority vulnerable species to guide their future management and conservation.
Seed collection of native bushland species occurred between October 2012 and March 2013, resulting in collections from 75 species, including eight of the vulnerable species. Seed was cleaned, processed and recorded in the horticultural database, with samples of all seed x-rayed to determine percentage viability. Spores from Cheilanthes sieberi and Astroloma ciliatum cuttings, both vulnerable species, were notable additions to the germplasm collections. The Cheilanthes was successfully propagated in the Kings Park nursery.
A new flora species record for Kings Park, Poranthera moorokatta, was formally documented and a plan drafted for its future management. Seed was successfully collected during November 2012 with germination trials yet to occur. This record brings the total number of native species recorded in Kings Park bushland to 325.
Planting of over 21,800 local native plants occurred across 26 restoration sites in the bushland. Key sites included the Kings Park Nature Trail, Thomas Street boundary area and the escarpment restoration sites impacted by the January 2009 bushfire.
The occurrence of feral rabbits in some areas of Kings Park was apparent during the year, resulting in the initiation of fumigation of all identified warrens from December 2012. Anecdotal evidence suggested a reduction in rabbit numbers since fumigation began but this has not yet been quantified. Other control methods trialled included the use of Pindone baits within secure bait stations designed to minimise off target species access, and the release of Calici virus in November 2012, but this was not successful in controlling rabbit numbers.
BGPA staff continued to implement a range of management strategies to conserve native biodiversity in Bold Park bushland and restore degraded areas in ecological restoration focus sites, using an adaptive management approach.
Two fires that occurred in March 2012 prompted the initiation of a restoration and monitoring plan for each site of approximately 12 hectares. Although these sites were not previously priorities for restoration, the fires provided an opportunity to implement weed control in the first winter with a high degree of effectiveness to reduce competition for regenerating native species. Each site has been divided into priority areas for future restoration activity depending on a set of criteria, and the monitoring plan will enable recording of vegetation recovery over time and further identification of future restoration priorities. The fire sites restoration and monitoring plan was incorporated into the five year restoration plan for Bold Park which was finalised during the year.
Restoration activities continued in priority sites including the Oceanic Precinct, the Eastern Gateway, Reabold Hill, Ecology Centre, Mt Claremont and a central area linking the Eastern Gateway and Oceanic precincts referred to as Middle Earth. Over 40,500 plants with 51 local native species represented were planted to cover approximately one hectare combined. Some infill planting on track edges were also implemented.
Greenstock survival rates continued to be monitored for three years post planting. The average survival rates for 2012 planting sites varied from 30-60% in the first year depending on the site. Bold Park recorded its hottest summer on record during the 2012/2013 season.
The weed control program was also implemented in priority sites including veld grass control over 50 hectares in the Oceanic, Eastern Gateway and 2012 fire sites and Pelargonium control over 21.5 hectares in the same priority areas. Bridal creeper control was implemented in the worst infestations over 13 hectares with Black Flag, African Lovegrass and Freesia also targeted for control. The program of Geraldton wax and hybrid plant removal continued to help conserve the local Wembley wax population.
The seed collection program yielded seed for a total of 90 species which included seed of eight of the fifteen most vulnerable species. All vulnerable flora were recorded as present and generally the populations remained stable, with a small reduction in population size for Pimelea argentea and Eryngium pinnatifida, most likely due to the extended dry periods experienced.
The 2012 fires impacted some vulnerable flora populations, reducing some mature plants of Luzula meridionalis but prompting an increase in population size though the regeneration of new individuals. A new population of Anigozanthos humilis, a fire responsive species and one of the vulnerable flora species in Bold Park, was recorded at the Balga fire site. The populations within the Zamia West fire site flowered very well with 95% of the population producing flowers.
A number of external research projects were advanced at Bold Park on topics including long term monitoring of vertebrate species, a long term population study of an introduced snail, a long term bird banding study at Mt Claremont, dispersal and persistence of Macrozamia and pollination success and population decline in native orchids. Reports from each of these research projects will be provided when complete as a resource for future management reference.
Western Australian Botanic Garden
The implementation of a revised structure for horticultural staff into two Horticultural Displays teams with Assistant Curators leading them proved to be highly successful in motivating staff, producing consistent horticultural standards throughout the park and developing an overall team approach to all horticultural operations.
An upgrade and expansion of the Verticordia display garden was completed during the year including installation of contoured sand ridges and new sand, new sub-surface trickle irrigation and planting of 813 new plants of Verticordia species. Many of these plants were grafted onto hardy rootstocks in the Kings Park nursery to improve their performance as display plants in the Botanic Garden and promote the conservation and cultivation of this little known genus to visitors.
Additional focus areas for the annual planting program included the rejuvenation of the bushland transition gardens that interface with the bushland on the Mt Eliza Escarpment, and infill planting around the reservoir surrounds with iconic Western Australian native trees and shrubs. Planting of 16,500 Western Australian native annuals throughout the main display beds of the Botanic Garden and 2,000 in parkland areas was completed to enhance displays for the Kings Park Festival and generally throughout the gardens. A total of 20,900 native plants (excluding the annuals) were planted throughout the Botanic Garden and parkland gardens to enhance the living collection displays and maintain the thematic integrity of the plant collections.
In addition to the planting program, further strategies to improve the botanical plant labeling through the Botanic Garden were implemented, with regular accuracy checks conducted by the Herbarium Botanist.
The Kings Park nursery continued to produce quality native plants for restoration, display and conservation programs despite a reduction in staff numbers working within the nursery. Almost 23,000 local native plants were propagated and grown on in the nursery for use in restoration plantings in Kings Park bushland and Bold Park, with a focus on the more difficult to grow species. This production was supplemented by contract grown plants from external commercial nurseries.
Approximately 19,000 plants were produced for horticultural displays, planted throughout the Botanic Garden and parkland areas of Kings Park. In addition, over 2,000 plants were grown for incorporation into Kings Park Festival displays and over 18,000 annual plants were grown to enhance wildflower displays for the festival. These included a range of Rhodanthe, Schoenia, Brachyscome, Leucochrysum, Podolepis and Waitzia amongst many others.
Production of approximately 450 advanced trees in large rocket pots for tree replacement and enhancement programs throughout Kings Park was another key outcome for the nursery. These trees were planted in the memorial drives to replace dead or damaged specimens and in other parkland areas to replace trees removed for public safety or lost through extended dry periods.
The nursery also continued its role in the production of plants declared as threatened flora for Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) translocation programs. Approximately 700 plants were produced under this program for translocation into the wild to enhance threatened species conservation in the field. DEC staff continued to supply germinants from their threatened flora seed germination trials to Kings Park nursery to be grown on for ultimate incorporation into displays in the Conservation Garden.
The nursery made good progress with the plant grafting program during the year and improved propagation techniques for some of the more difficult species such as Physopsis chrysophylla and Verticordia grandis. Some of the new species successfully propagated included Astrotricha hamptonii, Solanum lachnophyllum, Solanum ashbyae, Solanum tudununggae, Nymphaea lukei and Nymphaea violacea.
The BGPA Plant Development team continued to expand its operations through commercial agreements and sub-licence contracts with external partners. This included a new contract with a Western Australian, nationwide distribution wholesale propagation nursery to test and release BGPA hybrid plant selections from a range of plant families. The program aims to develop Australian plants, and particularly Western Australian native plants, as hardy plants for reliable display and superior performance as garden specimens, to expand their use in public and domestic landscapes and gardens. Over 20,000 crosses were made across selected genera during the reporting period.
Under commercial agreements, 52 hybrid Corymbia lines and 17 Anigozanthos lines were dispatched from Kings Park for local and inter-state evaluation, and 75 hybrid Grevillea, including three tissue culture lines were sent overseas for commercial testing. Three of the hybrid Grevillea selections were short-listed for world-wide commercial release. Other genera from which selected lines have been developed and dispatched for testing include Boronia, Chamelaucium, Hypocalymma and Actinodium.
The BGPA Team also selected a low growing, compact form of the native hibiscus that was released onto the Australian market by a commercial partner as Alyogyne wrayae ‘Blue Heeler’, with the BGPA logo displayed on the label.
Significant progress was made with the somatic fusion project, an RIDC funded project with a focus on the Chamelaucium alliance. A protocol for Chamelaucium hybrid plant regeneration from protoplasts via somatic embryogenesis was optimised and pre-fusion treatment protocols for somatic fusion techniques were established. Various somatic embryogenic lines for somatic fusion with allied genera were established.
Western Australian Seed Technology Centre (WASTC)
A successful field collection program was completed during the year by the Curator of the WASTC with assistance from various horticultural staff. Major trips were undertaken to remote areas such as the east Pilbara, the Great Victoria Desert and the Nullabor Plain to expand conservation collections and extend the range of Western Australian plant species available for cultivation in the Botanic Garden.
A range of new forms of Eucalyptus kingsmillii and Eucalyptus youngiana were collected for display, with collections made from mountains in the Pilbara ranges and across the Great Victoria Desert to the Western Australia/South Australia border. A number of species were collected and cultivated for the first time including Eucalyptus kingsmillii ssp alatissima and Brachyscome tatei from the Great Australian Bight.
A total of 173 collections were made during the year and processed and stored in accordance with international protocols in the WASTC. Seed collected from unusual and difficult species included collections of Banksia elegans and Ptilotus obovatus.
A successful funding application to the Australian Seedbank Partnership as part of the 1,000 species project provided funding support for two of the remote field trips and enabled conservation collections to be duplicated and sent to the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) at Kew in the United Kingdom. A total of 13 species not previously collected for this worldwide seed conservation project were collected and sent to the MSB.
2013 marks 50 years of the Kings Park field collection program, which was initiated in 1963 with the development of the Western Australian Botanic Garden at that time to collect material for botanical display.
The BGPA Reference Herbarium Botanist continued to curate the herbarium collections including mounting, labelling, repair and processing of voucher specimens. Most plants collected for use within Kings Park and Botanic Garden have a herbarium voucher specimen lodged with this reference herbarium, a duplicate of which is also sent to the State Herbarium.
The Herbarium Botanist played a key role in plant identification throughout the BGPA including checking the accuracy of botanical labels on public display and identification of plants collected from the wild. The Botanist also checked all botanical information produced for public distribution for the Friends of Kings Park plant sales prior to release. Staff training sessions in plant identification continued through the year with herbarium and Nursery staff providing expert tuition.
Botanical names were updated in the BGPA horticultural database, BGBase, to ensure name currency and accuracy for all BGPA plant collections, and data entry was completed for all new herbarium specimens. In addition, plant identification enquiries from local, interstate and international plant enthusiasts and researchers were answered in a timely manner via email.
The Arbor Team continued to address all matters related to tree management within Kings Park and Bold Park throughout the year, striving to implement industry best practice for tree development, protection and management. This small team had several changes in personnel during the year with two staff leaving to pursue alternative careers, the graduation and departure of one trainee Arborist and replacement with a new trainee, and the recruitment of an experienced climber to assist with tree remedial work. Staff training was a high priority to maintain currency of information and practices.
Some substantial tree surgery works were completed during the year including servicing of the significant Plane Trees at Mounts Bay Gardens, removal of woody weeds from this area and servicing of established trees from the Kennedy Fountain site through to the Mounts Bay Road overpass. In addition, the Fraser Avenue Lemon Scented gums had remedial works implemented following formal inspections as did many of the trees in the Botanic Garden and throughout parkland areas.
The giant Gija Jumulu Boab tree in the Botanic Garden remained a focus for intensive monitoring and remedial works as required. A scan of the tree’s interior using sonic tomography equipment was undertaken in December 2012 to help determine the extent of healthy and/or decayed material, and careful excavation around root sections enabled root inspections for new growth. The spread of internal decay continued to stabilise and new root and canopy growth indicated favourable growth. This tree flowered during autumn but has not set any fruit since its relocation to the Botanic Garden in 2008. The Boab continued to be one of the most popular topics for talks to external community groups, highlighting the work done by the BGPA for its ongoing conservation.
Over 300 trees were planted throughout the parkland with the main focus areas being May and Lovekin Drives, Fraser Lawns, and Forrest Drive. Students from Challenger Institute assisted with Honour Avenue tree planting as part of their training, consistent with the Memorandum of Understanding endorsed by the BGPA. A further 200 trees comprising primarily local native species were planted near the Saw Avenue Picnic Area by the Horticultural Displays Team, following the earlier removal of the senescent pine plantation from this site. Irrigation was installed to assist with the establishment of these new trees.
Green Waste Recycling
The BGPA won the State Government category of the Infinity Awards 2012, announced by the Minister for Environment in August 2012, for its achievements in composting green waste and recycling the end product for use as mulch in Kings Park. The awards are administered by the WA Waste Authority to recognise excellence in waste management towards achieving a zero waste outcome.
The BGPA continued its green waste composting and recycling program throughout the year with approximately 1,000 cubic metres of composted mulch produced and distributed through garden areas in the park and a zero green waste outcome for the BGPA.
Rare and Threatened Species
Research continues into the conservation biology of the State’s rare and threatened flora which now number over 400 gazetted taxa. This involves implementing various in-situ(translocations) and ex-situ(establishing nursery and tissue culture collections) conservation strategies as a way to reduce the chances of extinction.
Work continued into its third year on Androcalva perlaria (see case study below), a critically endangered species from the south coast of Western Australia, through sponsorship from a local resources company.
A new project commenced in early 2013 on the threatened Ricinocarpos brevis which is found mainly on Banded Ironstone formations approximately 130km north of Southern Cross. Only three populations of this species are presently known with the main population (~15,000) found in the Windarling Range, currently being mined for iron ore by Cliffs Asia Pacific Iron Ore Pty Ltd. As part of their environmental commitments Cliffs Asia Pacific is funding a three to five year research program on this species.
Case Study - Integrated conservation of Androcalva perlaria
Prior to 1993 Androcalva perlaria was completely unknown and after extensive surveying has now been recorded from just four bushland fragments on the Southern Coast of Western Australia. Across all known populations less than 100 plants remain.
As part of an integrated conservation project for this species a five-year research program has focussed on initially establishing an extensive container plant collection which has been used to generate large numbers of seeds (~90,000) and for the production of plants (via cuttings) for the establishment of a new translocated population at Mettlers Lake Nature Reserve, Wellstead in July 2012.
In addition, other parts of the program have worked on understanding the seed biology of this species, creating a genetically diverse tissue culture collection, profiling the genetic diversity of all remaining plants and developing a way to freeze plant material in liquid nitrogen that can be used many years later to revive this species in the event that it becomes extinct in the wild. Outcomes so far have established that A. perlaria seeds are highly dormant and form a persistent soil seed that germinates readily in response to fire, a reasonable amount of genetic diversity is still retained within this species and that different plant tissues can be successfully stored in liquid nitrogen and revived again.
Restoration ecology continues to be a global scientific activity providing underpinning knowledge to rebuild and replenish the natural capital of degraded landscapes. BGPA is a national and international research leader and provider in the science of restoration including leading developments in:
Seedling recruitment and plant survival patterns.
Seedling and plant responses to environmental changes.
Delivering proven, cost-effective and scalable solutions in restoration.
Arid land restoration excellence both in Western Australia and overseas.
Program funding for restoration research is drawn from a broad section of the national competitive grant system (Australian Research Council, Rural and Industries Research and Development Corporation) as well as industry and government.
Collaborative research programs extend from the Great Sandy Desert (restoring degraded and contaminated soils), Pilbara region (restoration of post-mining environments with particular emphasis on framework species such as spinifex), mid-west (with major programs in restoration of threatened ecological communities and declared rare flora, predominantly focusing on the use of meta-soils as new growth medium in restoration) to single species restoration programs on the south coast.
Overall, the programs cover seed science, seed banking, provenance, micro-hydrology, pedology and enabling technologies. The integration of scientific disciplines and the ability to work across various landscapes has provided international opportunities, with BGPA science now assisting in desert restoration programs in the Middle East.
The Restoration Ecophysiology team continues to research interactions of Australian native plants with altered environments, including those disturbed by humans as well as those altered by changing climates. By examining key physiological markers of native plants the team hopes to identify restoration and conservation management strategies to improve plant resilience.
The team is currently addressing key questions within (1) the Western Australian mining sector (Mid-west, Pilbara and Swan Coastal Plain); (2) the agricultural sector (Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria); and (3) internationally across the general restoration sector (Saudi Arabia).
Collaborative research continues in several key areas in 2012/13 including:
Banksia woodland restoration – Understanding plant-soil-water dynamics to optimise Banksia woodland restoration (supported by Rocla Quarry Products).
Understanding the impacts of a changing climate on Banksia woodland functioning and sustainability.
Image analysis to understand long term impacts of restoration techniques on restoration outcomes.
Banded Ironstone restoration – using plant performance to understand declared rare flora (DRF) and threatened ecological community (TEC) restoration success.
Agricultural land restoration and sustainable production – optimising seed enhancement technologies to optimise seedling establishment.
Arid zone restoration - Understanding plant-soil-water dynamics to optimise seedling establishment in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia).
The Conservation Biotechnology team undertakes research into micro propagation, tissue culture, and cryogenics of endangered native plants. Research is also undertaken on non-endangered plant species important for restoration but recalcitrant to conventional propagation methods. Collaborative programs are undertaken with other researchers seeking to use in-vitrotechnology as part of their programs in other restoration disciplines as well.
Key achievements this year include:
Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project ‘Development of cryopreservation for high value provenance collections of recalcitrant plant species used in post-mining restoration’ was completed. This project has resulted in new directions for improving cryogenic storage of rare and restoration-priority species.
In-vitropropagation of Philotheca basistyla (Rutaceaee) has resulted in successful cloning of a number of plants which have now been established in tissue culture. Root induction work has seen several plants established back into soil which are now growing well. Cryogenic work has seen the establishment of a successful method of storing vegetative tissues in liquid nitrogen. Genetics work is advanced and is due for completion by the end of 2013.
Ex-situ conservation strategies for Androvanda vesiculosa has found that this species is readily propagated through tissue culture means and initial results investigating the applicability of cryogenic storage of vegetative tissues in liquid nitrogen have been encouraging with some survival noted but as yet plants have not been successfully established from tissues stored in liquid nitrogen (see case study below).
A PhD research program on the declared rare flora species Leucopogon sp. ciliate was completed. The focus of this research was on developing biotechnology approaches for the enhanced propagation of Leucopogon sp. ciliate for future translocation programs.
Micro propagation research continues with other endangered and priority plant species in the in-vitrocollection.
Case Study- Ex situ conservation of Aldrovanda vesiculosa
The waterwheel plant (A. vesiculosa) is a threatened species that is closely related to the venus flytrap but unlike that species, A. vesiculosa is completely aquatic. The species was once found across the world, but only 50 populations are still known to exist world-wide. Recently this species was red listed by the IUCN and within Western Australia only two populations are recorded, one located in the Kimberley and the other near Esperance though neither has been sighted in recent years.
Fortunately a living collection derived from the Esperance population was established in Kings Park and Botanic Garden in 2009.
Research has found that seeds produced by the species are considered unreliable for propagation purposes, however, A. vesiculosa is highly efficient at vegetative reproduction, regularly breaking off growing segments which rapidly establish themselves as new growing plants. Indeed, this efficient mode of reproduction lends the plant to sterile in-vitro culture which has been developed and optimised by Kings Park scientists to establish this species in tissue culture.
Preliminary work has also been completed in the development of techniques for freezing plant tissues in liquid nitrogen to establish a long-term tissue bank. Early results have been encouraging with initial survival highlighting the potential of storing A. vesiculosa and other aquatic species in liquid nitrogen as an insurance policy against extinction.
The Conservation Genetics team undertakes innovative genetics research underpinning the conservation and restoration of Western Australia’s unique biodiversity. This is achieved through the application of modern molecular techniques and addressing key research areas.
Five nationally competitive ARC (Australian Research Council) grants were held by the Conservation Genetics Team through the Discovery and Linkage Grants Schemes with researchers at the University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Murdoch University and the Australian National University.
Three major industry funded projects included a four-year research program funded by Rio Tinto to characterise genetic variation within and among populations of the three Pilbara riparian tree species affected by water extraction, a three year program funded by Karara Mining Ltd on the conservation genetics of the DRF Acacia karina, and a 1-year research project identifying the impacts on genetic diversity in the DRF Ricinocapros brevis of proposed expansion to mining, with funding from Cliffs Natural Resources Pty Ltd.
In 2012/13 these projects have resulted in the following outcomes:
Significant progress has been made towards a genetic provenance atlas for native plant community restoration in urban bushland remnants in south Western Australia, with genetic provenance information for more than 50 local species now achieved. This information helps identify local provenance seed collection zones, makes restoration activities more efficient and conserves biodiversity within species.
A molecular ecophysiological approach assessed the importance of using local provenance seed in native plant community restoration. Outcomes include an assessment of population genomic and phylogeographic variation in Gompholobium spp. and Eucalyptus gomphocephala (tuart), the development and utilization of non-neutral genetic marker techniques such as expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and microarrays, assessment of genetic provenance variation in Jarrah forest populations of the snottygobble Persoonia longifolia, a major field-based experiment to assess the potential for out-breeding depression following mixing of genetic provenances of triggerplants (Stylidium spp), and large-scale reciprocal transplant experiments in E. gomphocephala (tuart) and Gompholobium marginatum and G. polymorphum to assess home-site advantage.
Population genetic assessments and large-scale reciprocal field trials are being conducted on keystone Banksia species to underpin Banksia woodland restoration that will be resilient to global climate change. A genetic assessment of variation and mating of restored and natural populations of B. attenuata and Banksia menziesii has highlighted the successful genetic management of restoration with this species, and the successful restoration of critical pollinator services for reproductive functionality within restored populations.
Genetic variation and spatial genetic structure has been assessed with microsatellites in the sea-grass Posidonia australis at multiple spatial scales, from meters to nationally, with a focus on Cockburn Sound. Through assignment approaches, genetic markers have also identified the scale and direction of the movement of pollen and seed. Genetic results have been interpreted to generate genetic guidelines for seed and propagule sourcing, underpinning improved seagrass restoration efforts.
Key outcomes from a three-year research program on the conservation genetics of the priority listed narrowly endemic Acacia karina include the quantification and characterisation of spatial genetic structure and variation, the assessment of key population genetic processes such as mating and dispersal, molecular resolution of the phylogeny of A. karina and related species, the application of DNA barcoding for the rapid identification of Acacia species in the region, and the development of whole genome DNA barcoding for acacias. This research underpins the conservation and management of threatened acacia species.
Microsatellite markers have been developed and used to characterise genetic variation within and among populations of the Pilbara species Eucalyptus camaldulensis, E. victrix and Melaleuca argentea, associated with impacts from mining on Weeli Wolli springs. This research underpins seed sourcing decisions for future ecological restoration.
DNA sequencing and microsatellites are being applied to resolve biologically significant units at multiple scales in spinifex. Research outcomes will underpin improved ecological restoration outcomes in the Pilbara.
Ecological genetic research has focused on the role of emus as vectors for the long-distance dispersal of seed of the Jarrah forest species Leucopogon nutans, Persoonia elliptica, Macrozamia riedlei, and Podocarpus drouynianus. Key outcomes include the characterization of realized dispersal of seed and pollen at many kilometres, underpinning an understanding of the impact of a loss of these vectors on key population genetic processes, and the implications of this for plants to respond to a changing environment.
Molecular markers have definitely identified that the proposed genetic pollution threat of hybridization with indigenous Tuart plants from introduced eucalypts, is not realized.
Seed Science and Restoration Seed Banking
The BGPA Seed Science team undertakes research into seed biology and ecology, seed physiology, and seed biotechnology. This research is used to improve the use of seeds in plant propagation, conservation, and landscape restoration.
A five-year $5 Million research partnership between BGPA, BHP Billiton Iron Ore, and The University of Western Australia (UWA) for The Restoration Seedbank Initiative (RSB) has commenced. The RSB will develop the science, knowledge, and technical skills required to achieve environmental restoration in the Pilbara. The RSB comprises four research programs encompassing seedbank science and curation, seed enablement technology, and soil science, to develop smart approaches for the collection, storage, and use of seed in landscape-scale restoration.
In a project aligned to the Restoration Seedbank Initiative, a three year program sponsored by BHP Billiton Iron Ore to develop the governance model, business plan, and operational plan for the Pilbara Restoration Initiative (PRI) has commenced. The PRI is envisaged to be a multi-disciplinary, strategic partnership between industry, government, and NGO’s to develop multiple science-based knowledge hubs (e.g. in disciplines such as hydrology and landform engineering, along with the RSB) to address landscape restoration issues in the Pilbara.
The completion of a multi-year collaborative project with other Botanic Gardens in Australia has modelled the longevity of seeds from across Australia, identifying species that produce long- and short-lived seeds. This study will contribute to the development of seed testing schedules for BGPA’s seed bank, and an improved ability to predict the longevity of new seed collections based on seed, plant, and environmental traits.
Two PhD research programs focused on aquatic plants of the Kimberley have identified dormancy and germination traits, and gathered data on the ecology of seedling emergence from soil seed banks, for a range of species that occur in ephemeral pools. One important finding is that seeds of the charismatic water lilies are sensitive to storage at freezing temperatures, and now require the development of specialised storage procedures to ensure ex-situ collections remain viable.
Australian Research Council funded research with The University of Western Australia’s School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences continues to investigate the mechanisms of action, and applications to conservation, of chemical agents in smoke that stimulate seed germination. New findings have demonstrated that synthesised karrikins behave differently in the soil environment, as compared with karrikins contained in plant-derived smoke. Further research will focus on engineering synthesised karrikins to improve their stability and mobility through the soil profile to further enhance their ability to stimulate the soil seed bank in restoration and agricultural applications.
This resulted in the following outcomes in 2012/13:
New industry partnerships have commenced for seed and restoration sciences, and a concept design for new BGPA seed banking and laboratory facilities associated with the expanding research programs has been approved.
Seed longevity has been modelled for more than 230 species from across Australia. This has identified short-lived seeds requiring specialised storage procedures, including cryostorage.
Seed dormancy and germination traits have been identified for more than 30 aquatic species from the Kimberley. This provides new insights into the ecology of wetland species.
Compared with karrikins deposited in the soil during wildfires, synthetic karrikins are leached more rapidly through the soil profile and are less stable under UV light. Research is now directed towards improving the soil-binding properties of synthetic karrikins to increase their utility in promoting seedling emergence for restoration and weed control.
Orchid Conservation and Biology
The BGPA Orchid Research team has been actively involved in diverse research areas working towards integrated orchid conservation. This research emphasis has facilitated:
Strong collaborative links with local and international institutions, the most prominent being with the Orchid Research scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom and The Australian National University, Canberra.
Significant collaborations with industry stakeholders, community groups, volunteers and students from other education institutions.
Three major long-term orchid conservation projects continued this year:
While the industry supported part of the Drakaea elastica program has concluded, research related to this fascinating genus continues. Ongoing work with collaborators at The Australian National University is focusing on the role of floral scent in attracting and sexually deceiving the male pollinators. This work is important for understanding speciation and species delimitation in this genus. The research program has been expanded with the commencement of a PhD student investigating the development of micro propagation and cryopreservation techniques for Drakaea conservation.
The Caladenia lodgeana research program focuses on the integrated conservation and recovery of the Collie Spider Orchid. Research has shown that this orchid also has a habitat preference for deep litter, an open understorey and it may be influenced by slope and altitudinal gradients. Further research in 2013 and 2014 will be undertaken to resolve the microhabitat preferences of the plant and its mycorrhizal fungi. Pollination studies suggest the existence of both food and sexual deception pollination syndromes. Further pollinator baiting, pollen marking and insect trapping will be undertaken to confirm the ecological consequences of these two different strategies and the ecological requirements of the two pollinator groups.
The Caladenia huegelii research program continues as one of the longest running programs in the Orchid Research Team and is focused on understanding the pollination ecology of this highly endangered species. Habitat loss and fragmentation of urban reserves have heavily impacted this species. Capture of the pollinator, Macrothynnus insignis, and subsequent pollinator baiting has revealed that the pollinator is presently rare across the Swan Coastal Plain. Studies of the ecology of the pollinator began in 2012 and will continue in 2013/2014. Preliminary work revealed that while M. insignis appears to be specialised by foraging on flowers of Myrtaceae, they are capable of moving distances up to half a kilometre. The Caladenia huegelii program has also been expanded with the commencement of a PhD focused on understanding the ecophysiology of the trophic transition of micro propagated orchids.
All programs are expected to benefit from a recently commenced PhD program investigating the roles mycorrhizal fungi play in the carbon and mineral acquisition systems of green Western Australian orchids.
Biodiversity and Extensions
Promoting sound horticultural practices for species restoration and recovery operations and promotion and use of native Western Australian species for gardening and landscaping represents the core business for Biodiversity and Extensions.
Outcomes of environmental weed control herbicide experiments in glass house and field trials, in natural and degraded ecosystems, continues to be part of BGPA’s commitment to assist bushland managers with promotion to other agencies and the restoration sector in Western Australia.
The translocation of rare flora using the latest scientific research results and sound horticultural practices, continues to be part of core operations working in cooperation with other agencies such as the Department of Environment and Conservation, Non-Government Organisations, industry and volunteers.
Programs underway in 2012/13 include:
The translocation of Eremophila resinosa funded by Evolution Mining, extension of sites is ongoing (presently 5 sites), with continuing support from the Shire of Westonia.
Translocation of the critically endangered Grevillea scapigera (Corrigin Grevillea). This successful program includes long term seed storage of over 50,000 seed.
Translocation of the critically endangered Symonanthus bancroftii. Monitoring, weed control and scientific experiments such as seed burial trials and stimulation of the soil seedbank are continuing.
Translocation of Verticordia lindleyi subsp. lindleyi funded by the Public Transport Authority and planted at Perth Airport on land managed by Westralia Airports Corporation. Recruitment of seedlings from the soil seedbank has resulted in about 60 seedlings being naturally established.
Extension activities include representing the BGPA on several committees, presentations to professional organisations, conferences, seminars and the general public and serving on advisory groups with local organizations such as the Environmental Weeds Action Network.
The Kings Park Volunteer Master Gardeners continue to provide gardening advice to the general public promoting the use of water efficient and low nutrient-requiring native plants. They also manage a large bush garden open to public viewing. This group also plays a major role promoting these plants with BGPA staff through Dig it with Coffee sessions, where the general public are introduced to gardening with native plants. More information about the activities of the Kings Park Volunteer Master Gardeners can be found in Appendix 2.