‘Flora Connections’, a new initiative of the Atlas of Living Australia, hosted by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, and Western Sydney University (WSU), is aimed at harnessing the passion of amateur flora groups and citizen scientists to help monitor fire and flood recovery.
Atlas of Living Australia’s, Dr Erin Roger said it was important work, with the cost of recent weather events not only impacting people and wildlife, but also affecting many important native plants.
“As extreme fires and floods become more common, plants, which are vital to keeping our ecosystems healthy, also need to recover,” Dr Roger said.
“Through Flora Connections, we want to better-understand how our native plants are recovering post-fire and flood, and that means boots on the ground.
“That’s why we’re urging Australians who love getting out into nature to get involved, to help us collect the information we need while they’re exploring.”
WSU Project Principal Scientist and Associate Professor Rachael Gallagher said the goal of Flora Connections was to connect community knowledge with government and researchers to help develop an up-to-date understanding of how plant species had fared after extreme events.
“Plants are at the core of our ecosystems and protecting them makes sense given the huge role they play in human existence,” Dr Gallagher said.
“There’s a wealth of knowledge in the hands of the bushwalkers of Australia and we’re keen to harness it to bring much-needed data about how plants respond to extreme events to the surface.”
Dr Roger said volunteer amateur botanists could visit the Flora Connections website to access information, documentation forms and other material which would help them gather the data required and to submit it.
“After the information is submitted to Flora Connections, it will then be made available by the Atlas of Living Australia, our national biodiversity data infrastructure, which will be of huge value to support the science of bushfire impacts on plants,” she said.
Flora Connections is one of three citizen science projects to receive funding under the Australian Government’s $200 million Bushfire Recovery Program for wildlife and their habitats. The projects are being coordinated by the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), a National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) facility, hosted by CSIRO.
6 steps to a great plant observation:
- Find a native plant in your area
- Identify the plant species – use an ID app or reference book
- Record the plant’s location and habitat
- Assess threats to the plants – common threats are feral animals, disease and fire
- Do a species population survey – count the number of plants you can see
- Upload data to the Flora Connections website.