Friday, November 02, 2007

Australian National Botanical Gardens

Damien Eldridge sent me this link to the parlous state of Canberra's Australian National Botanical Gardens. Jobs are being cut - 30% have disappeared over the past 20 years - and solvency is threatened by mounting water bills ($600,000 annually) and increased electricity charges. The claim is that the gardens are being poorly maintained.

These gardens are a unique Australian institution and the largest collection of native Australian plants - about 1/3 of all species - in the world. There is an enormous range of species covering a wide range of habitat types - rainforest gully plants and dry country plants within a short distance of each other. I am surprised at how few academics from the Australian National University use the gardens as it is within walking distance of the campus.

The article suggests that too much use of the gardens is being made for recreational purposes. I don't see that. I am a regular visitor to the gardens when I am in Canberra. Its an obviously important place to look at flora (and avifauna!) but also a pleasant place to meet up with friends to have a coffee. I cannot see much conflict between these roles - investing in garden beds to provide paying customers should be one way of cross-subsidising the important conservation and scientific work the gardens provide.

It would be a national tragedy if this unique national asset was damaged or lost for what seems to be a fairly paltry amount of money.

3 comments:

derrida derider said...

Yep, its within walking distance of the ANU, but its not a pleasant walk (past lots of unfortunate 1970s architecture and across a major road) and the ANU is not short of other places on and near the campus for a pleasant stroll (something, of course, that is true for Canberra as a whole).

But yeah, the potential loss is out of all proportion to the modest savings being made. Local rumour has it, though, that its cause is not being helped by some particularly poor middle management.

Damien Eldridge said...

Here is a link to another story on this topic that also appeared in the online version of the Canberra Times:

http://canberra.yourguide.com.au/news/local/general/gardens-could-prune-costs-by-shedding-staff/1079690.html .

conrad said...

I'll just repeat my newish opinion and comment from the global warming story you had. This just shows people don't care about the next generation. They can evidentaly solve their own problems (potentially caused by us), and reinvent biodiversity.

I believe there is a very similar story to be told of a Russian seed bank (I can't remember the name now). That had bank had seeds from all over the world, and managed to make it through world war 2 (despite famine). However, by the 80s people didn't care about it, and I belive now its gone. So it isn't just Australians.

Looking around I just found a blog link to it:

http://rastaseed.wordpress.com/2007/09/25/russian-seed-bank-needs-help/