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Sunday, June 20, 2021

New seed bank to quadruple storage capacity

Designs for a $7.2 million state-of-the-art National Seed Bank, which will almost quadruple the existing bank’s capacity to store the seeds of rare and threatened species, were unveiled at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra this morning.

Speaking at the launch, Federal Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley said the new seed bank would ensure the protection of Australia’s precious native plant species in the face of a changing climate and extreme weather events like bushfires and floods.

Minister Ley said $650,000 in philanthropic donations would also be used in the construction of the new facility, which is expected to begin at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in 2022.

“This new National Seed Bank is an investment in the health of our environment through its protection of our Nation’s wealth of biodiversity,” Minister Ley said.

“The Seed Bank features a large freezer or vault that will quadruple the existing storage capacity as well as a state-of-the-art laboratory to enhance the research and conservation programs already delivered by the Botanic Gardens.”

The ANBG currently holds the world’s most comprehensive collection of Australian native plants, including large numbers of rare and threatened species.

“The existing seed bank holds more than 7,700 seed collections from almost 4,000 plant species – 139 of which are threatened species. Its scientific and horticultural research is pivotal to the conservation of Australia’s plant biodiversity,” Minister Ley said.

“Last summer, the National Seed Bank team collected and assessed plants impacted by the Black Summer bushfires. Of the more than two dozen species collected, two of them had 100% of their habitat in Namadgi National Park heavily impacted by the fires.”

The planned facility has the support of Gardening Australia host Costa Georgiadis, who said seed banks were vitally important in extinction-proofing Australia’s native plant species.

“The seeds stored safely in the new National Seed Bank will ensure our children and our grandchildren can appreciate Australia’s amazingly rich collection of flora,” Mr Georgiadis said.

The importance of seed banking was highlighted by the Government’s Threatened Species Hub today, with new research pointing to 50 species at risk of extinction, culminating in the launch of an Action Plan for Australia’s Imperilled Plants.

To equip the facility once built, the National Parks Conservation Trust (NPCT) is running an online auction at galabid.com/seed to raise $1.2 million.

NPCT trustee, Guy Fitzhardinge AM, said the specialised equipment, “which is not cheap”, is required to get the new Seed Bank up and going as quickly as possible when it’s built.

Items up for auction include a banquet for six at Pollen Café, personalised tours of the Rainforest, National Seed Bank, Tropical Greenhouse and Herbarium, framed images of seed bank specimens, plus donations towards specialised equipment, such as cryostorage and see moisture detectors to the portable SMARTLab, for which $200,000 was collected from an anonymous donor.

The auction closes Sunday 23 May 2pm AEST.

Visit galabid.com/seed to view auction items.

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