Conservation of Tasmanian seeds

Seed Bank Lab

Main laboratory of the Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre.

The Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre (TSCC) is a seed banking facility located in a purpose-built laboratory at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Established in 2005, the TSCC has become the cornerstone of the Botanical Gardens conservation strategy.

The TSCC is a product of the Joint Tasmanian-Millennium Seed Bank Project, a project resulting from collaboration of:

  1. The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens;
  2. The Tasmanian Herbarium;
  3. The Resource Management and Conservation Division of DPIPWE; and
  4. The Seed Conservation Department of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK).

The International Millennium Seed Bank Project

Kew’s Seed Conservation Department in the UK is home to a global conservation program known as the Millennium Seed Bank Project (MSBP). This highly ambitious project aims to collect and bank seeds of around 24,200 species by the end of 2009. To meet this goal the MSBP jointly funds seed banking activities in around 36 different countries around the world, including Australia.

The Millennium Seed Bank at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK

The Millennium Seed Bank at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Wakehurst Place in the UK.

The TSCC and ‘SeedSafe’

The TSCC will ensure the long-term security and conservation of Tasmania’s unique native plant species by providing:

  • Ex situ support for plant conservation programs;
  • Seed material to assist in the scientific study of our native plants; and
  • Long term preservation of plant biodiversity loss caused by environmental degradation.

The Tasmanian members of the MSBP are collectively referred to as ‘SeedSafe‘. By the beginning of 2010 the SeedSafe group aimed to:

  1. Collect and conserve 800 plant species native to Tasmania; and
  2. Collect and conserve at least 60% of Tasmania’s threatened flora.

Close of MSBP and the future

By the close of the MSBP the Kew seedbank had surpassed it’s target of 24,200 species and collections continue to be added (more information on Kew’s seed numbers here). In the first quarter of 2010 SeedSafe had made over 1,100 collections and held 56% of Tasmania’s threatened flora.

The RTBG has now committed itself to holding 75% of our Threatened flora by 2020, in accordance with the current revision of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.

Basic activities

Target species are identified before seeds are collected from naturally occurring populations in the wild. Back at the TSCC, seeds are carefully cleaned, dried, sealed in packages and stored at -20°C.

The SeedSafe program and TSCC will greatly enhance our knowledge of Tasmania’s native flora, of which little is currently known. By collecting seeds in situ, as well as field data and herbarium specimens, testing seed viability, uncovering germination requirements and propagating plants, we expect to uncover a great deal about Tasmanian plant life-cycles, germination ecology and environmental impacts.

‘Back-up’ collections for Tasmania

Half of each seed collection made in Tasmania is stored in the TSCC, while the other half is sent to the MSBP in the UK as part of the
global seed conservation effort. This collection is also an important ‘back up’ for the collection remaining in Tasmania.

Seedbank staff

Recording field data

Seed collector Micah Visoiu recording field data in Mt Field National Park, Tasmania. Field data is vital to the long-term value of a seed collection.

Seed cleaning

Seed Bank coordinator James Wood supervising the cleaning of Spyridium parviflorum with volunteer Lorraine Cotter.

During the MSBP funded stage seed collection was carried out by Micah Visoiu from the Resource Management and Conservation Division of the Department of Primary Industries and Water, with the assistance of other staff and suitably qualified volunteers.
Operation of the TSCC is overseen by the Seed Bank Coordinator, James Wood. A team of volunteers also assist in cleaning seeds in preparation for banking and germination testing.

All collections are catalogued in the TSCC database. This database holds each collection’s associated field data and the results of all seed germination tests carried out by the TSCC and other parties.

TSCC germination data is available to the public in the TSCC Germination Database.