Banking on seeds for bushfire recovery – Insuring against future loss

Post bushfire rain in some areas have helped with recovery (Photo: Dan Duval)

In response to the devastating bushfires in 2019–2020, the Australian Government committed $50 million to the Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program. This investment will support the immediate survival and long-term recovery of fire-affected animals, plants, ecological communities and other natural assets across eastern and southern Australia.

The Australian Seed Bank Partnership was successful in securing a $155,000 grant through this program to fund our Banking on seeds for bushfire recovery project which aims to limit the decline of 25 species from fire affected areas in the ACT, NSW, SA, Vic and WA. This aligns with our mission to conserve Australia’s native plant diversity through collaborative and sustainable seed collecting, banking, research and knowledge sharing.

The funding will allow us to provide a future-proof insurance policy for Australia’s unique flora and protect against further loss from future ecosystem threats. This is particularly important for fire affected areas as seedbanks have an important role to play in supporting ecological recovery by providing knowledge and advice, a source of banked seed to support reintroductions, and conservation and restoration research.

aftermath of the Hillville #fire in Kiwarrak SF south of Taree.
Aftermath of the Hillville fire in Kiwarrak State Forest (Photo: Gavin Phillips)

Our new project will include a comprehensive program of seed collection, propagation, reintroduction, germination trials and flora surveys across areas impacted by the recent bushfires. For example, seedlings of priority species such as Callistemon kenmorrisonii, Nematolepis frondosa, and Viola improcera will be propagated for reintroduction to fire affected areas of eastern Victoria.

The project will also focus on the long‑term ex situ banking of native seed to improve representation and genetic diversity of collections in Australian seed banks. We will collect material from ten previously unbanked species (e.g. Westringia lucida), from three species to increase genetic diversity of established collections (e.g. Stylidium tepperianum), and from two species to duplicate collections and increase overall collection size (e.g. Dampiera fusca).

We will also engage with community volunteers and raise public awareness to highlight the importance of bushfire recovery actions and improve Australia’s long-term capacity for conservation. In Western Australia for example, we will fund the creation of a seed production area for Xyris exilis at the Woodlupine Primary School. Seed collected from this area will be added to the conservation collections of the Western Australian Seed Centre for use in future species recovery work.

We look forward to working with our partners, volunteers and the public to secure the future of our native flora, and acknowledge the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment for their continued investment in bushfire recovery.

Kangaroo Island fire surveys (Photo: Dan Duval, South Australian Seed Conservation Centre, BGSH)