Kings Park researchers and seed balls
There is a desperate race against time, knowledge and cost to rehabilitate mine sites across the state, but particularly in the Pilbara region of WA. Seeds are key to restoring the landscape after mining activities. A report written by David Merritt and Kingsley Dixon of the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority called 'Rehabilitation at Scale' contains some sobering statistics. Around 1200 square kilometres of land will need revegetation so the scale is almost overwhelming but the complexity of the task is mind blowing.
80% of Australian species of plants are found here and nowhere else. To date only 10% of plants have been investigated for seed characteristics and only one in five Australian plants have known pollinators.
In order to rehabilitate the mined area of the Pilbara 600 tonnes of wild collected seed will be needed. Despite tripling the annual collection in the last 4 years we currently collect just 6 tonnes - one percent of what's needed. 1200 square kilometres would require $840 million worth of seed at current rates.
With the cumulative chance of any seed getting through to establishment being less than 6% the challenge of increasing our knowledge, improving collection and success rates is enormous.
The Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority based in Kings Park have committed major resources to help the mining industry understand the issues and to bring science to the rehabilitation table.
One major initiative is the Restoration Seedbank project with industry partner BHP. The key outcomes of the Conservation Seed Science team include seed longevity, seed germination, seed dormancy, smoke technology and weed control.
Two scientist working on this project Dr Anne Matthews and Dr Maria Perez visited C-Wise in June to talk about Seed Balls. Andy Gulliver and John Barton lead the discussion from the C-Wise end. BPGA are looking for ways of improving germination and establishment and increasing the efficiency of the regeneration process.