Publications : Online Learning

A synthesis of seed-based mine restoration research in Australia’s arid northwest: the Pilbara Seed Atlas project and beyond - Recording

Online Learning
Published in 2017

Presenter: Todd Erickson, Project Manager – Restoration Seedbank Initiative, The University of Western Australia

Todd is a seed ecologist with experience in all aspects of seed handling, processing, and delivery of seeds required in conservation and restoration programs. His experience began during the South Australia’s component of the Millennium Seedbank Project (in 2003), and continued after moving to Western Australia at the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s Threatened Flora Seed Centre (in 2006), where seeds from rare and conservation priority species were targeted, collected and stored in long-term seedbanking facilities located in Kew Botanic Gardens and their respective Australian seedbank facilities. In 2008, Todd moved to Kings Park Botanic Garden to take up a research role funded by BHP Billiton Iron Ore and a PhD opportunity at The University of Western Australia investigating seed dormancy and germination patterns in the hot deserts of Western Australia focussed on mine site restoration. This seed journey in the Pilbara continues to this day as Project Manager of the Restoration Seedbank (RSB) Initiative. Todd’s current RSB research role focuses on developing new and exciting seed enhancement technologies that combine dormancy alleviation pre-treatments with polymer seed coating, pelleting, and priming applications. 

Restoration performance in the mining-dominated region of the Pilbara has been under increasing scrutiny. It has been suggested that the levels of plant cover, density, and diversity are not being re-instated to levels that match the pre-mined conditions. To address these concerns, researchers at Kings Park Botanic Gardens and The University of Western Australia have been collaborating with the mining industry in the north-western Pilbara region for over eight years. The recently completed Pilbara Seed Atlas Project (2008-2013) and current Restoration Seedbank Initiative (2013-2018) have at their core research focussed on unpacking the steps required to use seeds for restoration and pin-pointing, on a species by species basis, where seeds may be lost during the restoration process. It is well known that approximately 90% of seeds fail to pass the seedling emergence stage. However, depending on the species, many other components such as poor seed quality and complex dormancy mechanisms reduce the establishment potential of any given batch of seeds.

In this presentation, key findings from both projects will be discussed using examples from dominant genera such as Triodia and Acacia. For instance, we have found that Triodia seed collections (1) consistently exhibit low floret fill rates, (2) are physiologically dormant with some of the most complex dormancy mechanisms recorded in grasses to date, (3) have diverse physiological responses to temperature and moisture during seed germination depending on the pre-treatments applied, and (4) during early seedling establishment demonstrate a unique drought-adapted shift in physiological, morphological, and anatomical traits that allow the species to grow in harsh arid conditions. Cumulatively, these seed and seedling traits influence restoration performance and we will conclude this talk with how we work with the mining industry to translate this seed management information into real on-ground changes in restoration practice.

Duration: 00:51:41

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