Katina De Sousa, Astron’s Principal Scientist – Rehabilitation, was very excited when the recently published Pilbara Seed Atlas and Field Guide arrived on her desk at work. In this article Katina summarises the value of this book and the contribution it is making to improving mine site rehabilitation in the Pilbara.
As Molly Meldrum would say “Do yourself a favour” and buy this book!! If you are involved with or interested in rehabilitation in the Pilbara (or just have a general interest in botany or seed biology) then the Pilbara Seed Atlas and Field Guide will become a bible for you. I even took my copy on holiday with me so that I would have time to read it.
Recently published by CSIRO, the Pilbara Seed Atlas and Field Guide is unique in that is combines plant identification information with a scientific basis for the effective collection, cleaning, storage and germination of the seeds of 103 regional plant taxa. This makes it useful for all stages of rehabilitation from planning through to seed collection, storage and implementation.
In Western Australia, the mining industry broadcasts thousands of kilograms of seed every year for rehabilitation programs – most of which fails to germinate.
Optimising the cleaning, storage and treatment of seed to ensure its germination will:
- reduce rehabilitation costs for the mining industry
- improve rehabilitation outcomes through increased plant density and/or diversity
- reduce the pressure on native seed sources.
The rigorous testing of seed dormancy mechanisms which forms the basis for this book is particularly useful. Seed dormancy is present in about 70% of flowering species (Baskin and Baskin 2002). If the environmental cues that trigger seeds to germinate are not present during the initial rehabilitation phase, then germination may be slow or never occur at all. It is common in arid zones for 90% or more of broadcast seeds to fail to produce a seedling (Erickson et al 2016, Merritt and Dixon 2011, Commander et al 2013). The level of failure is costly to the mining industry and puts pressure on the wild populations of native seed which are picked to supply the rehabilitation industry. In the Pilbara Seed Atlas and Field Guide the dormancy mechanism and optimal pre-treatment and treatment method has been identified for most species. This finally provides rehabilitation practitioners with a scientific basis for optimising the germination of seed applied during rehabilitation activities.
BHP Billiton, the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority and everyone involved in the development of the Pilbara Seed Atlas and Field Guide should be applauded. By sharing their learnings on optimal seed collection, storage and treatment they have made a significant contribution towards the understanding of seed biology and effective rehabilitation practice in the Pilbara.
Baskin CC and Baskin JM 2014, Seeds: ecology, biogeography, and evolution of dormancy and germination, 2nd edition, Academic Press, San Diego, California.
Commander LE, Rokich DP, Renton M, Dixon KW and Merritt DJ 2013, ‘Optimising seed broadcasting and greenstock planting for restoration in the Australian arid zone’, Journal of Arid Environments, vol. 88, pp. 226-235.
Erickson TE, Barrett, RL, Merritt, DJ and Dixon, KW 2016, Pilbara Seed Atlas and Field Guide, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, Victoria.
Merritt DJ and Dixon KW 2011, ‘Restoration seed banks – a matter of scale’, Science, vol. 332, pp. 424-425.