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History of the ANPC

The following is a background paper prepared for the Biodiversity Information Network (BIN21) electronic on-line workshop in Brasil in June 1992.

Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC)

Varying reports have been produced in Australia since the early 1970s calling for action on endangered species and promoting a regional network of botanic gardens to concentrate on the flora of their local region. While many of these reports have recognised the role that botanic gardens and arboreta can play in conservation activities, there was a significant number of other groups and people involved that were overlooked. This in particular includes the so-called 'non-professionals'.

In 1987, the Australian National Botanic Gardens was contracted by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service (ANPWS) to conduct a survey of the major botanic gardens in Australia to determine their holdings of rare and threatened Australian plants. The published report included the following recommendations:

  1. Australian botanic gardens large and small should endeavour to play an increased role in the conservation of rare and threatened plant species
  2. Australian botanic gardens should implement the Botanic Gardens Conservation Strategy.
  3. Funding should be provided for an Australian botanic gardens conservation secretariat.
  4. The Australian botanic gardens community should develop a regional role in conservation matters relevant to the south-west Pacific and SE Asian regions.
  5. Smaller botanic gardens should be encouraged to develop a collection of species from their local region or establish a national collection of a particular group.
  6. The major botanic gardens should assist smaller botanic gardens by providing scientific and technical assistance and advice.
  7. A national collection of rare and threatened species should be dispersed to three or more gardens to assist in the security of the collection.
  8. A national collection policy for rare or threatened plants should be developed.
  9. A conference should be held to discuss all of the above matters and to provide guidelines for further action.

These recommendations recognised the largely unco-ordinated approach to ex situ conservation in Australia.

In 1991 the ANBG acted to co-ordinate the ex situ conservation of rare and threatened plants by organising the conference "Protective Custody? - Ex Situ Plant Conservation in Australasia". The conference had among its goals the intention to:

  • Prepare guidelines for the establishment of an Australian Plant Conservation Secretariat and an Australian Botanic Gardens Conservation Secretariat.
  • Participants who attended this conference came from universities, botanic gardens zoos, the forestry industry, conservation agencies, horticultural organisations, the mining industry and local councils. This reflects the immense interest in the general community in this subject.
  • As had been apparent from the survey in 1987, it was again obvious from the conference that there has been little communication between different organisations.

Encouragingly, it was generally agreed by conference delegates that there is a need for informal networking so that the diverse range of groups involved can be made aware of the situation that exists. Out of this common acceptance of the situation came a proposal for the establishment of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation

The aims of the Network are to:

  1. Establish a multi-site national endangered species collection
  2. Locate and bring together information concerning integrated conservation activities in Australia.
  3. Assist in the co-ordination of plant conservation projects to avoid duplication.
  4. Provide information and advice to ANPC members.
  5. Promote plant conservation.
  6. Organise workshops and training courses.
  7. Produce a regular Newsletter.

The structure of the ANPC is as follows.

Advisory Committee

Role. The Advisory Committee will:

  • assist the co-ordinating office to develop and maintain co-operation between botanic gardens, kindred organisations and land management agencies;
  • advise on plant conservation activities for the ANPC including the review of funding and fund raising possibilities;
  • advise on the operation of the co-ordinating office.

Membership. The membership of the Advisory Committee is be drawn from botanic gardens, zoological gardens, non-government institutions, the media, tertiary institutions, national parks and wildlife services (including the ANPWS), industry and the CSIRO.

A special attempt has been made to include representation from land management organisations.

Expert Sub-Committees

The Advisory Committee will appoint these sub-committees as required to advise it on matters such as funding, research plant re-introduction, ecological restoration and germplasm storage.

Co-ordinating Office

Role

The Co-ordinating Office will:

  • carry out day to day management of the programs and activities of the organisation as recommended by the Conference delegates;
  • assist in the implementation of the Botanic Gardens Conservation Strategy;
  • draft and adapt policy documents and technical manuals for review by the Advisory Committee;
  • develop and maintain a national database of rare or threatened plants in cultivation in Australia to complement the CSIRO database of rare or threatened Australian plants in the wild;
  • provide a link with other national and international conservation bodies;
  • manage the budget of the organisation;
  • act as a regional office of the Botanic Gardens Conservation Secretariat;
  • maintain communication between the Advisory Committee, co-ordinating office and sponsoring agencies especially through the production of a regular newsletter.

Staff

  • Initial set-up and on-going assistance has been from existing Australian National Botanic Gardens staff
  • One full time ANPC staff member
  • Volunteer assistance as available
  • Short-term contracts (eg. for database development) subject to the availability of funds.

Staff employed specifically for the ANPC will be employed (though not necessarily funded) through the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Accommodation

Delegates at the Conference agreed that establishing the ANPC in Canberra would be advantageous given the importance of the ANPC having close contacts with such organisations as the CSIRO and the ANPWS through the Endangered Species Program.

The Co-ordinating Office for the ANPC is located in Canberra in space provided by the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

ANPC Members

This group represents all paid up members of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation.

ANPC Activities

The activities of ANPC Co-ordinating Office during first year have been:

Office establishment:

  • Preparation and circulation of the Prospectus to prospective Network members and finalise.
  • Negotiation of an agreement with ANBG regarding staffing and accommodation.
  • Establishment of a functioning office with appropriate administrative systems.

Network and communications:

  • Editing and publishing of the Proceedings of the 1991 Protective Custody conference.
  • Organizing a public announcement of the creation of ANPC.
  • Recruitment of members and establishment of Network membership list and contacts.
  • Recruitment of members of the Advisory Committee.
  • Establishment of communication between Co-ordinating Office and Network members, and other co-operating organisations and individuals.
  • Design, preparation and circulation of the newsletter.

Development of information system:

  • Determination of scope and objectives of information system.
  • Selection and acquisition of hardware and software.
  • Identify and retain consultant for Information Systems development.
  • Development of specific application for management of ANPC activities.
  • Establishment links with other relevant database holding organizations.

Planning and Budgeting:

  • Preparation of a three-year strategic development plan, including budgetary projections, for review by the Advisory Committee.

Fundraising:

  • Identification of potential sources of funding for ANPC from governmental and private sources in Australia and elsewhere.
  • Develop specific proposals for financial support of program elements.
  • Initiate contact with prospective funders and solicit contributions.
  • Determination of member contribution scale of fees and invoicing system.

Training, education, and meetings:

  • By means of a survey, determine the training requirements and needs of Network members.
  • Circulate register of training courses available to members.
  • Plan and execute a biennial conference of Network members for 1993.
  • Plan and execute first meeting of Advisory Committee.
  • Conduct a training course for the management of plant living collection databases, including a review of the major relevant national databases, to be held in 1992.

Database Development

A fundamental activity of any national organization is the creation and maintenance of a database to serve the overall needs. The ANPC database will focus on the collections of conservation-worthy plants in Australian botanic gardens as well as those grown by kindred organizations and interested individuals. This database will be established on standard, commercially available computer hardware, using software to allow straightforward communications with other national and international databases. The day to day management of the database and data inputting will be undertaken by the staff of the organization but database structural development is being carried out by contract during the first and subsequent years of operation of the organization, for which separate funding will be sought. Initial computer hardware acquisitions have been made during the first year of operation of the organization.

At its core the database will contain a list of rare and endangered Australian plants, made available by the CSIRO and updated as revisions are published. It will also include relevant fields on distribution, ROTAP conservation category, life forms, etc. of each of the species listed.

Based upon this central reference list of plants the organization will gather the following data:

  • The occurrence of plant accessions in botanic gardens and other ex situ conservation collections in Australia. The structure of the database is being adapted from software already developed at the ANBG but careful concern has been given to ensure that it is fully compatible with the International Transfer Format for Botanic Gardens Records. The ITF has become a standard for the electronic exchange of accession information between gardens and is widely used in Australia and elsewhere. Data held on each accession will include as extensive information as possible on their origins and level of verification. The National Data Management System developed by the Center for Plant Conservation (USA), which meets many of the basic needs of ANPC, has served as the basic template for the information system design.
  • Documentation and a bibliography on the horticultural methodologies used for the cultivation and propagation of plants listed in the database will be undertaken in co-operation with the BGCS.
  • A register of plant recovery, re-introduction and ecological restoration programmes will be maintained.
  • A list of rare or threatened species available in the horticultural trade will be maintained as well as listings of the major nurseries stocking them.
  • Species that are either controlled under the provisions of CITES or else are endangered through their collection for trade will be highlighted.
  • In conjunction with the BGCS, a list of non-native rare and endangered plants in cultivation in Australia's botanic gardens will be maintained to foster the Australian contribution to global efforts for plant conservation. In addition the database will link with international efforts to document conservation collections of Australian plants held elsewhere in the world.

Education

The ANPC will support and encourage educational programs to increase awareness of the problems of plant conservation and biodiversity and the importance of integrated programs to address conservation issues.

Training

Currently there is little if any training done by botanic gardens and kindred organisations in relation to the conservation of Australia's flora. Such training will include courses on collecting, propagating and cultivating threatened plants; species re-introduction; database development and management, and land management. It may include tertiary courses that already exist. A great deal is also likely to be gained by the exchange of staff between different organisations involved in both in situ and ex situ conservation.

Training is primarily the responsibility of individual organisations both in terms of organisation and funding as any training must be tailored to the conservation programs that those organisations have developed.

However, the role of the Co-ordinating Office will be to identify and distribute information concerning any conservation training that is already available and provide contacts for organisations wishing to exchange staff.

The Co-ordinating Office will also, in the longer term, make suggestions on what types of training would be valuable for organisations to undertake if they are interested in conducting conservation work. This may include arranging with particular organisations to carry out part of the training program.

Exchange of staff should be considered not only within Australia but also between countries in the South-West Pacific and with other nations world- wide where national integrated conservation programs are under consideration.

ANPC Membership Fee Structure

As part of the commitment from each of the ANPC members there is an annual subscription. The fee structure that has been decided upon (as at 1992) is:

    Federal, State or Local Government Agencies,
    Corporations or Industry Associations             $ 200     
    Other Non-profit Organisations                    $  50     
    Interested Individual                             $  30

The membership of the ANPC at 1 July 1992 is 87.

Current Activities

  • Establishment of the National Endangered Species Collection and index of conservation activities.
  • Production of a regular Newsletter including the promotion of ANPWS activities and publications.
  • Planning for a workshop for the SGAP Study Groups.
  • Providing assistance to the Grevillea sp. (Tumut) recovery plan.
  • Preliminary planning for the 2nd National ANPC Conference (in conjunction with the ESU).
  • Providing assistance to proposed regional plant conservation networks in New Zealand and Indonesia.

Contacts

Mark Richardson
Lyn Meredith

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