Recently a meeting was held at Lake Bolac to determine the interest in developing a project to bring silver banksias, drooping sheoaks and sweet bursarias back into the landscape. A wide range of participants attended which indicates a great level of interest in this idea.
The event was facilitated by Russell Fisher who uses a range of techniques to gather information. He began by interviewing Bill Weatherly, a farmer with an interest in tree growing, and Martin Driver from the Australian Network for Plant Conservation, about their perspective on the issues involved in trying to re-establish the three keystone species.
Imagine how different the landscape would look if we could get more of these species back into the wider Victorian Volcanic Plains landscape. According to Martin there is wide interest in NSW for a similar project.
While the focus of the day swung more towards banksias because this genus seems to be in the most trouble with the loss of old plants and lack of viable seed, a lot of what was discussed applies to all three species. The aim was to share the knowledge of where individuals or populations remain on the Victorian Volcanic Plains, to record the information on maps, bearing in mind confidentiality relating to some sites, to identify the people to talk with, identify potential revegetation sites and share existing knowledge.
One of the main issues to address relates to genetic diversity and the reduced amount of viable seed. We don’t know how the work around the genetics will unravel but Adam Miller from Nature Glenelg Trust is willing to start work on this aspect.
Steve Sinclair from ARI (Arthur Rylah Institute) gave a fascinating presentation on the work that he and others have been doing over the last 7-8 years, with the assistance of La Trobe University students. A distribution map has been constructed allowing them to describe the niches that banksias would have occupied. This will be a good guide for future restoration projects.
It seems a huge amount of work has been done searching historic documents to unearth reports and observations by early explorers and those who kept diaries, for a mention of banksias or honeysuckle. Survey reports were of particular interest as often the lot corner trees were identified with a written description on maps.
Much of the information gathered has been digitised into a rich data set and with the aid of current modelling has been turned into a map of modeled pre-colonial distribution and another for habitat that could support banksias. Banksias would have fulfilled an import role in the ecosystem supplying nectar, hollows and shelter. A study of the genetics of remaining plants will show their connectivity to other local banksias or if they are separate due to different habitat niches.
A café style workshop was included to get input from the participants on
• Seed collection & nursery practices & protocols
• Principles of engagement to consider
• and governance and coordination for the project
After an hour or so spent pouring over maps and marking sites the workshop wound up by deciding some of the next steps that need to be considered. There was certainly a buzz in the room indicating this was a project that was certainly worth exploring further. Stay tuned for the next step.