Latest Projects

The Western Australian Herbarium, a part of the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s Science Division, leads or collaborates in a range of projects, with the community, state or federal government agencies. Many of them adopt FloraBase as their ‘portal’ to the biodiversity information they collect and analyse. They include:

New Plant Family Sequence

As part of the move to a new Biodiversity Science Centre, the Western Australian Herbarium rearranged its vascular plant collections. The new systematic sequence is largely based on the phylogeny of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APGIII), a global collaborative effort to better understand the relationships of plant groups.

Swan Weeds Information on the Swan Region’s major environmental weeds

Environmental weeds pose a serious threat to the rich natural biodiversity of the Swan Region in Western Australia. Swan Weeds is a database developed to provide accessible information on the most problematic environmental weeds in the region.

Swan Weeds provides web-based delivery of information on the biology and management of environmental weeds which are problematic in Western Australia, with particular emphasis on those species occurring on the Swan Coastal Plain and Darling Scarp and Plateau (the Jarrah Forest IBRA Region).

The database is a collaboration involving the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s (DPaW) Western Australian Herbarium, DPaW’s Urban Nature Program and the 2006–2008 Invasive Species Project administered by the Perth Region NRM (formerly the Swan Catchment Council). The latter project has been funded through the Commonwealth Government’s Natural Heritage Trust program. Production of the grass and herbaceous species management notes has been funded by DPaW as a Specific Nature Conservation Project. This forms part of a $4.75 million targeted investment by DEC over 2009–10 to implement projects for the conservation of Western Australia’s native plants, animals and ecosystems.

Saving Our Species — Taxonomy Resolution and description of new plant species in the Yilgarn ironstone and Ravensthorpe Range areas subject to mining interest

Saving Our Species Initiative

A large number of species occurring in WA are yet to be investigated and formally described and named. This SOS project was established in 2006 with the following objectives:

  • To assess the distinctness and taxonomic ranking of key putatively new taxa
  • To formally describe valid new taxa
  • To assess the conservation status of the valid taxa and recommend their listing as Priority or Declared Rare Flora, as required
  • To generally expedite the resolution and description of current manuscript or phrase-named Priority and Declared Rare Flora across Western Australia.

Juliet Wege, Kelly Shepherd and Ryonen Butcher were employed as botanists under the supervision of Terry Macfarlane and David Coates.

The objective of the project was to see as many undescribed taxa as possible given formal names under the protocols of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) within the two year project timeframe. The SOS botanists both resolved and described new taxa independently and supported other botanists, in order to facilitate the rapid publication of new names.

The outcome of this project—the description of 94 new plant taxa—was published in Nuytsia Volume 17 in December 2007. The work continues to encourage botanists to fully document and describe other new taxa from this unique area of the State.

Saving Our Species — FloraBase Interactive Identification Aids

One of the biggest challenges in managing the conservation estate in a region the size of WA, with its enormous biodiversity, is to access current and reliable information on species and their populations. In particular, tools are required to enable conservation workers to learn to identify species and the habitats in which they occur.

Significant resources already exist in the Department that scientifically voucher the occurrence and identity of the biota. For example, the WA Herbarium contains over 650,000 records of the State’s flora. However, every year the collection grows by around 5%, research improves and refines taxonomic concepts, and c. 100 new taxa are published.

Information systems allow this level of change to be captured and disseminated, particularly through web portals such as the authoritative and widely-used FloraBase.

This project contributed to the provision of online interactive tools allowing conservation workers to:

  • perform identification with new interactive keys to the families and genera of flowering plants in WA, and in the second year for some of the endemic genera in the Proteaceae
  • find and utilise a range of complementary information on the conservation taxa identified with the keys
  • access detailed information on new species published in the journal Nuytsia in context within FloraBase

These tools allowed faster and more accurate identification of conservation and related species in a range of largely endemic WA plant genera and direct access to further online content.

The outcome of this project in 2007 was the publication of interactive keys to some 1053 genera as well as 48 keys to specific plant families.

Marine Plants Project

The Marine Plants Project was a joint venture between the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s Western Australian Herbarium and Marine Conservation Branch with close collaboration from CSIRO, Murdoch University and University of WA.

The Marine Plant Project provides ready access to authoritative current names for WA’s marine flora and access to some 20,000 specimen details, including geographic localities, habitat information and, where available, images.

Electronically captured information on the State’s marine plants is integrated within FloraBase. Current names, images, descriptions and the known distribution of land vascular plants, based on WA Herbarium holdings have been available electronically through FloraBase since 1995 and descriptions of taxa are gradually being added to progress the on-line flora of Western Australia. The Marine Plant Project provides species descriptions and tools for species identification of WA’s marine plants in the same way as those progressively being made available for land vascular flora.

WWF Woodland Watch

Woodland Watch was a collaborative project involving WWF-Australia and the Herbarium of the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation (now Parks and Wildlife), with the assistance of funding from the Natural Heritage Trust and Alcoa World Alumina Australia. A major objective of the project was to carry out floristic surveys of selected remnant eucalypt woodlands of the Avon region—all on private farmlands. The Avon Wheatbelt region is situated in the South West Botanical Province of Western Australia and is largely bound by Jarrah forest in the south west, and by the Murchison and goldfields districts of the Eremaean Botanical Province to the north east. It encompasses an area of 93,520 square kilometres, of which 93% has been cleared.