Plant story - the endemic and rare Australian plant Acacia chapmanii has been collected and saved
In December 2000, seeds of Acacia chapmanii subsp. australis were collected from the largest known population of the taxon at Drummond Nature Reserve by the Department of Environment and Conservation's Threatened Flora Seed Centre together with the then Conservation Officer from Swan Region. Although not considered threatened under IUCN criteria at the time, the taxon was listed as Priority 2 (P2) on the Western Australian conservation flora list because the population was considered at risk of extinction due to threatening processes.
Although this collection was made just prior to the official signing of a collaborative DEC-Kew agreement, we sent 5,500 seeds over to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank for safe keeping in our first consignment under the partnership in 2001. The remainder of the seeds were placed into long term storage under low temperature and low moisture conditions in our own seed bank. A sample germination test told us the seed was highly viable (97%).
Threats increase and things get worse
Over the next few years the population continued to decline so an upgrade to Declared Rare Flora under IUCN Red List Index criteria occurred in 2003. It had become very apparent that plants were threatened by salinity, weed invasion, possibly disease, lack of recruitment and senescence. In order to understand the reasons for the decline of the population the Swan Region's Conservation Officers, in conjunction with DEC's Science Division, established 12 monitoring plots at the site. In addition, further seed collections were made in December 2003.
Acacia chapmanii (Photo: Anne Cochrane)
Plants are returned
In May 2004 a known quantity of the collected seed was put into the plots. Fire was applied to some plots; others remained untreated. All plots were fenced to exclude grazing. At the same time, a small sample of seeds were germinated in the laboratory and grown on so that seedling characters could be noted to enable easier identification of any seedlings recruited in the plots. The first seedlings emerged in July 2004. Plots continue to be monitored for recruitment.
Species saved from extinction
This project demonstrates how seeds collected under the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership have been used to recover threatened flora. When the first seeds were collected, this taxon was not considered as highly threatened as it is now and there was no formal document outlining recovery actions. So it was truely a "preemptive collection"!
Story by Anne Cochrane, Department of Environment and Conservation, Western Australia | More plant stories
Get involved - Adopt a Seed, Save a Species
We have successfully banked 10% of the world's wild plant species and we have set our sights on saving 25% by 2020.
Without plants there could be no life on earth, and yet every day another four plant species face extinction. Too often when we hear these kind of statistics there is little that we can do as individuals, but thanks to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership and the Adopt a Seed, Save a Species campaign there is something that you can do to ensure the survival of a plant species.