14 October 2022

Mighty growth in Far South Coast seedbank helps prepare for future disasters

| Albert McKnight
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Volunteers attend a Far South Coast seedbank workshop. Photo: Supplied.

The horrendous bushfires that engulfed the Far South Coast over two years ago saw a huge growth in demand for seeds in the local region.

This increase in demand has resulted in an expansion of the Far South Coast Landcare Community Seedbank’s output and the group is now ready to support critical disaster recovery projects.

The ‘Ramping up the Seedbank’ project boosted the seedbank’s capacity through an intensified period of seed collection, processing and storage, ensuring it could meet the increased demand for local provenance seed and support biodiversity conservation in the region.

“We’ve run the seedbank for 22 years and it really is an invaluable community resource for helping landscapes recover with locally-adapted species, giving them the best chance of survival as they grow,” programs manager for the Far South Coast Landcare Association (FSCLA), which spearheaded the project, Jean Bentley said.

“Following the Black Summer bushfires we were inundated with requests for seed and we knew we needed to find a way to rise to the challenge.”

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Ms Bentley said thanks to the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants Program, the association was able to hire a new seedbank project officer and train members of four local Landcare groups in native plant identification, native seed collection and processing.

“Not only have they been able to take these newly-learned skills back to their groups, they are now able to look out for and collect native seed that can be grown and used in their own projects,” she said.

But the project, which collected 107 species of native seed, hadn’t always been smooth sailing. Periods of intense rainfall resulted in unexpected hurdles that FSCLA and their partners worked together to overcome.

“Our biggest challenges in seed collection this last year have been the environmental conditions. We went from many years of severe drought into an overabundance of rain and the trees didn’t respond well to that,” FSCLA seedbank co-ordinator Merryn Carey said.

“Feeder roots shrivel up and die due to years of drought and bushfires, and then they get hammered with too much rain and start ‘drowning’.

“We thought the trees were recovering well but then we noticed they were dropping their leaves and dropping their seed crops over all those wet months.

“This project has been an absolute rollercoaster ride.”

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Despite the challenges, a record amount of seed was collected over the early summer period and the project engaged the local community in understanding local native plants, propagation and seed collection.

FSCLA was given more than $18,300 from the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants program to increase the capacity of the Far South Coast Landcare Community Seedbank with the support of other organisations.

The Australian Government’s $14 million Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants supported recovery projects in seven regions impacted by the Black Summer bushfires.

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