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Think tank sees international environmental experts join forces in Australia

19 January 2015



The Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority (BGPA) and BHP Billiton Iron Ore have led an interactive “think tank” as part of the $5 million Restoration Seed Bank Initiative (RSB).

Held in mid January, the five-day think tank saw six local and international experts gather in Western Australia with the aim of advancing seed technology research within the State and across the country.

BGPA Chief Executive Officer Mark Webb said the think tank had come at an important time in ensuring the mining industry in Western Australia was leading the world in rehabilitation practice.

“The RSB model has created significant international interest with the growing recognition of landscape-scale ecological rehabilitation in biodiversity protection,” Mr Webb said.

University of California Sierra Foothill and Extension Centre Director Jeremy James flew in for the think tank and said when addressing the complex global problem of restoration, institutions could choose to operate individually or work collaboratively.

“The thing that is exceedingly amazing with [the think tank] is that it does bring together multiple researchers in different lines of work across the globe to try to collaboratively tackle this pressing challenge,” Dr James said.

During the week, plant scientists, ecologists, engineers and environmental managers from Australia, South Africa and the United States participated in workshops at Kings Park and Botanic Garden and took a two-day field visit to BHP Billiton Iron Ore rehabilitation sites in the Pilbara.

“The value of the Pilbara for biodiversity conservation is priceless, especially for people who have never been there before,” Dr James said.

“To not only see the mining that is going on there, but also the huge opportunity to conserve and enhance biodiversity following these mining activities was absolutely amazing,” he said.

Dr James said the think tank provided a solid foundation framework to address the RSB’s core questions.
“The fundamental approaches and principles that are being established with this think tank and more comprehensively with the Restoration Seedbank Initiative, can absolutely be used as a model in the future to tackle similar biodiversity and conversation challenges that we face across the globe,” Dr James said.

Throughout the think tank, the team reviewed the latest in rehabilitation practices and brainstormed solutions for native plant establishment. It is likely their work will lead to new approaches to native rehabilitation of mined areas and provide valuable land care information.

“It is a huge endeavour, but the partnerships that are being created, particularly what I’ve seen between industry and Kings Park, is really one of the most exciting relationships I’ve seen in my career so far,” Dr James said.

Background information:

  • The Restoration Seed Bank Initiative commenced in June 2013 as a five-year $5 million research partnership between Kings Park and Botanic Garden, BHP Billiton Iron Ore and the University of Western Australia.
  • The RSB aims to develop the science, knowledge and technical skills required to achieve cost-effective and scalable rehabilitation of native vegetation in the Pilbara.
  • Seed is at the heart of practical and sustainable solutions to restore biodiversity to degraded landscapes, but low establishment rates have frustrated attempts to rebuild biodiversity in WA and elsewhere.

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