Some of Australia’s plant species are naturally rare, while others have become rare due to road building, land clearing for homes, businesses and other human influence. The number of rare and threatened Australian plants has increased in the past 100 years and to include approximately 23 percent of its native plants. The government and conservation organizations are working together to limit the number of species that might become extinct.
In Queensland, the Department of Environment and Resource Management has studied plants in the wild and determined that 23 species are extinct, 151 are endangered, 274 are vulnerable and 688 are rare. It concluded that all studied species might become extinct in less than 50 years if proactive measures are not undertaken to help these plants come back from the brink of extinction. Other Australian states, such as New South Wales, have also been active in assessing the rare plants within the borders. More than 600 plant species have been assessed as “under threat of extinction” in this Australian state. One of the methods being used to ensure that the rare plants of New South Wales will not be lost is a seed bank, in association with England’s Kew Gardens.
Research and Education
The Australian Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research is at the forefront of research efforts in its region. Research that scientists conduct is vital to understanding ways to conserve species of rare and endangered plants in Australia and around the world. Comparisons of genetic variation between rare species and similar, more common species, are some of the methods scientists use to help them understand the plants and develop guidelines for managing and conserving the rare species. Governmental agencies such as the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management are actively informing the public about Australia’s rare plants and educational efforts are in place to advise people to purchase native plants from nurseries rather than collecting them from the wild.
Conservation and Cultivation
Plant nurseries and botanical gardens have become instrumental in conserving Australia’s rare plants because they propagate and cultivate these species in order to conserve the plants found in the wild. In Queensland, the Parks and Wildlife Service has a nursery where workers cultivate more than 50 rare species. Some of these plants have been reintroduced into the wild in an effort to rehabilitate native plant populations.
National parks are one of the strategies Australia has implemented to protect its rare plants. Other protected areas exist that will also contribute greatly to saving these special plants by creating areas where no collection is allowed and no development or land clearing will take place. The Society for Growing Australian Plants cultivates many native plants and botanic gardens throughout Australia is also instrumental in growing these plants in protected areas.
Many plants are collected for eventual sale in the plant trade, both in Australia and other countries. Many species, such as tree ferns and orchids, have been seriously depleted because of over collection. Common plants such as Australia’s grasstrees and staghorn ferns are impacted and might join the list of already rare species in the future. The Australian government has instituted a licensing system for those who collect plants from the wild. It restricts the collection of desirable native plants and those that are classified as rare or endangered. The collector of such plants is required to tag them to identify the exact species and where it originated. Legislation continues, in an attempt to increase the controls on collecting and selling Australia’s rare plants.