Promoting liaison and cooperation between botanical institutions is a critical aspect of the role of the Gardens as a national institution and one which must receive continued attention. Recently, discussions have taken place with CSIRO, which operates a herbarium at the Black Mountain site of its Division of Plant Industry, to explore options for joint endeavours in areas of mutual interest. These discussions resulted in agreement to establish a Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, to operate until 31 December 1999.

The legal structure of the Centre follows the model developed by the Commonwealth for the Cooperative Research Centres program. The Centre is established as an unincorporated joint venture between the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and the CSIRO (the legal entities or Parties to the agreement). The agreement defines the objectives of the Centre as follows:

" The objectives of the Centre are:

(a) to develop and manage scientific collections of Australian and related floras as a permanent record of Australian plant diversity and as a resource for research on those floras;

(b) to provide a national focus for and play a coordinating role in national botanic data management; and

(c) to create a centre of excellence in the field of plant systematics, horticulture and conservation biology on vascular plants, non-vascular plants and fungi as a basis for sustainable management and use of Australian vegetation, with the capability of pursuing research, education and training relevant thereto. "

The agreement also makes the following provisions for the management and operation of the Centre:

Management prescriptions


The objective is to develop, cooperatively with CSIRO, the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research as a centre of excellence in the fields of Herbarium management, plant systematics, conservation biology, horticulture and botanical information management.


The Centre will combine the holdings of the two existing herbaria at the Gardens and CSIRO to operate as a single national collection, the Australian National Herbarium (ANH), and will lead to a reallocation of space as the collections are integrated and functions collocated. The space problems currently constraining herbarium operations will be alleviated to a large extent with the completion of a major extension to the Herbarium at CSIRO. The availability of this new facility in 1994 will allow the distribution of specimens and activities to be rationalised between the facilities available to the Centre. It will also permit the Gardens research unit to be relocated from their present unsatisfactory accommodation to new laboratory and office facilities in close proximity to related programs in the Centre.

The scale of the task involved in integrating the collections and databases will present a challenge in the initial period of the Centre's operation and will necessitate some readjustment of the activities of staff and services provided. Whilst this challenge can be met from existing resources, raising overall curatorial and data management standards of the combined collection will require an extended effort over many years. Additional resources will be sought from public and private sector sources to enhance the Centre's programs.

The links between the Herbarium and the living collections will be maintained and further developed so that the scientific credibility and value of the latter is enhanced and its usefulness as a research resource is maximised. Further development of these links will also ensure this key element of the National Estate values of the Gardens is preserved. Voucher specimens for the living collection will be housed in the Herbarium and Centre staff will provide verification of the identity of the living specimens. The availability, through the Centre, of a significantly larger specimen and information base and breadth of taxonomic expertise will be used to improve the provision of information for the living collection and the Public Reference Herbarium, which will remain at the Visitor Information Centre. Linkages between computer networks will be established as a high priority, to ensure staff working on CSIRO premises continue to have ready access to the Gardens database holdings and that staff in the Gardens has access to data held by the Centre.

The Centre will take responsibility for the coordination, maintenance and updating important national databases developed by Australian Nature Conservation Agency and CSIRO on behalf of the Commonwealth, including the Australian Plant Name Index and the Census of Australian Vascular Plants. It will also take an active role in the development and promotion of national and international standards for botanical data exchange. The responsibility for coordinating the Commonwealth input to projects such as the national Herbarium Information Standards and Protocols for the Interchange of Data, the International Organisation for Plant Information World Vascular Plant Checklist and the Taxonomic Databases Working Group of the International Union of Biological Sciences will rest with the Centre.

The research programs of the Centre focus on plant diversity, evolution and taxonomy, horticulture and conservation biology of the Australian flora, subjects of considerable interest and relevance to the Gardens and its staff. It will create opportunities for Gardens staff to become involved in a broader range of research issues than has been possible with existing facilities and resources. Through its participation in the Centre the Gardens will continue to make a positive contribution to our understanding of the origins and relationships of Australia's flora and to its conservation and sustainable use.

The development of a horticultural research program, to examine the potential commercial uses of native species, is identified in section 3.3 as a high priority for the Gardens. The Centre will provide opportunities and facilities to facilitate a renewal of involvement by Gardens staff in this type of research activity.