Big Scrub Landcare’s Science Saving Rainforests Program (SSR) is continuing to progress well.

Broadly, the program involves developing a living seed bank in the form of plantations of multiple, carefully selected individuals of fifty important rainforest species to produce seed with optimal genetic diversity for use in restoration plantings. This will help to ensure the long-term sustainability of the substantial restoration plantings occurring in the Big Scrub region and their ongoing contribution to the survival of critically endangered lowland subtropical rainforest.  The program is an internationally innovative approach that is transferrable to the ecological restoration of other highly fragmented and degraded plant communities.

It is a complex, long-term program, though at a basic level the overarching deliverables can be divided into eight core components:

  • Collection of leaf samples from 6 selected old-growth individuals of each species in 30 to 40 remnants across its geographic range throughout NSW and Qld, led by Dr Rob Kooyman;
  • DNA sequencing of the leaf samples of each species, by a contractor selected and guided by the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney;
  • Genome analysis of the DNA of each species carried out by the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, to determine each species’ genetic diversity and to guide the selection of up to 20 individuals of each species that will together provide optimal genetic diversity for restoration plantings of that species;
  • Collection of cuttings from each selected individual of each species;
  • Propagation of the cuttings to provide planting stock of each individual of each species;
  • Preparation of the plantation site, planting and maintenance, nurturing the living seed bank
  • Harvesting seed for commercial and community nurseries for the production of genetically diverse planting stock for use in restoration plantings;
  • Raising the substantial funds needed to finance the Program.

The key to delivering a long-term program of this complexity is to develop a team of dedicated partners, collaborators and supporters with the necessary range of skills and experience and the dedication to see the program through to a successful conclusion.

BSL is delighted to have welcomed two new members to the SSR team over the past six months:

  • The NSW Government Department of Primary Industries, which has agreed to provide and assist with the development of an excellent site for the first plantation of 23 species at its Pearce’s Creek property near Wollongbar;
  • The NSW Government Environmental Trust, which is providing a grant of $200,000 to help fund DNA sequencing and genome analysis and $40,000 towards the costs of preparation of the plantation site.

BSL was recently invited to submit a proposal to Patagonia’s Australian Environmental Grants Program 2020. This would contribute to the costs of DNA sequencing and genome analyses. Through our recent intern from Patagonia in the USA, Patagonia is being offered the opportunity to become a major partner in the SSR Program after the Covid 19 crisis has passed.

Leaf sample collection is being carried out by Dr Rob Kooyman, one of Australia’s most experienced rainforest field ecologists and a world-leader in rainforest evolutionary ecology, He reports that approximately 50-60% of NSW collections are complete, with all Qld sites and remaining targets identified. Covid-19 restrictions have had most impact on the progress of collections at Qld sites where access has been restricted. December 2021 is the target completion date for leaf sample collections and cataloguing in preparation for genome analysis and DNA sequencing.

You can learn more about Big Scrub Landcare’s Science Saving Rainforest program by visiting