Providing habitat for native species, controlling soil erosion, stabilising riverbanks, and improving water quality – native flora is essential to the unique biodiversity of the Australian landscape. It’s also a precious part of our heritage and warrants careful conservation.
With the devastating bushfires still ongoing, it’s not yet possible to map and assess the scale of restoration task ahead – but we know it will be vast, and the requirement for seed equally great. The scale of the recovery is too much for small, localised seed hubs to address in a sustainable manner – we need a national native seed strategy.
The Federal Treasurer and Minister for the Environment recently announced a $50 million investment in emergency response to the bushfires – $5 million of this initial investment will see Greening Australia lead the development of a strategic program, Project Phoenix to secure native seed and plant supply for landscape restoration, recovery and resilience in bushfire impacted areas and other vulnerable landscapes.
As the native seed industry is currently quite small, people are just beginning to understand the need for native seed to attend to the restoration activities at the scale needed. Supply does not yet meet the demand as native seed isn’t a product that can be bought off the shelf. Native seed is specific to areas and isn’t equivalent to crops like wheat which can be grown generically across large parts of the country.
We want to plant seed that will continue to survive with the changing climate, because of this considerable work is being done to understand what climate change may to do our vegetation communities over time. It is likely that species flourishing now in certain areas, will not continue to be the most suitable for the climate in the future. Currently work is focusing on what these changes may be, so that as a seed sector, we can better grow and harvest the most suitable species for the future.
With an eons old understand of the landscape and our unique species, Indigenous communities play a critical role in shaping this national native seed strategy. Indigenous peoples have a specialist understanding of what changes in the natural landscape mean over time and therefore provide important information about what the future may hold. Greening Australia is working with Indigenous communities across the country through several projects, including formalised agreements within the seed space specifically.
The Government funded national native seed strategy will be overseen by an independent steering group and regular reporting will occur throughout the year on progress and plans.