Conservation in action
Without plants, life as we know it would cease to exist. The future wellbeing of all species relies on making better choices about the way we manage plants. Scientists at the Australian PlantBank study how plants germinate, grow and reproduce, and how they function within ecosystems. Other areas of research focus on how plants are adapted to their environment and evolve over time, and what causes them to die. Using this knowledge, we can begin to use plants more sustainably and preserve plant diversity in the wild.
The Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) is one of the world's rarest and most threatened tree species. Until recently it was thought extinct, and the wild population is tiny - fewer than 100 adult trees. Scientists here are studying wild Wollemi pines in their natural habitat and in cultivation. Understanding how this ancient species has survived over millions of years may help us predict how it will cope with environmental challenges in the future.
Why so rare?
Fossil evidence suggests that many millions of years ago the Wollemi pine was widespread, particularly in the southern hemisphere. Over time, the environmental conditions have become much less favourable for this species; now only two small groups of trees remain in a remote canyon in Wollemi National Park. Introduced diseases, invasive weeds and frequent bushfires are likely to continue to threaten the survival of the Wollemi pine.
From the wild to the world
Rare plants can be very attractive to plant collectors. Some species have been illegally harvested and collected to extinction. To protect the small number of Wollemi pines remaining in the wild, a living collection has been established using cuttings. This collection has been used to produce plants for gardens around the world, ensuring the security of the wild plants in their natural habitat.