Rainforest Conservation Program

Start date:
01 Jan 2013
End date:
31 Dec 2018
Dr Catherine A Offord, Dr Karen D Sommerville, Graeme Errington, Amanda Rollason, Veronica Viler, Patricia Meagher, Dr Zoe-Joy Newby. Students: Jessica Rigg, Heidi Zimmer, Martina Taylor
Project sponsors:
The Arcadia Fund have provided 50% of the project funding over a five year period. Supporters helping to match the Arcadia Fund include: Tony Maxwell and Robyn Godlee, Hon Justice Peter Garling and Jane Garling, the Greatorex Foundation, Christopher and Georgina Grubb, Dr Jan Roberts and Ken Roberts AM and Principal Conservation Partner HSBC.
Catherine A Offord

Project aims

  • Investigating germination requirements and seedbanking potential of individual species 
  • Banking seeds that can be conserved by seedbanking and developing alternative conservation measures for those that can’t
  • Providing plants for display, interpretation and reintroduction 
  • Passing on lessons learned to the wider community.


Project summary

Australian rainforest plants are under threat from habitat fragmentation, weeds, disease and climate change. Seedbanking is a cost effective way of conserving vulnerable plants, but not all species can survive the necessary drying and freezing.

This program focusses on assessing the storage potential of seeds from Australian rainforest species, storing those seeds suitable for seedbanking and looking for alternative conservation measures for those that are not.

Until this project commenced, little was known about how many of these species could be conserved using seedbanking techniques. The findings will be important to the restoration and management of Australia’s vulnerable rainforests.

Until this project commenced, little was known about how many of these species could be conserved using seedbanking techniques.

This is a large and complex project. It starts with collecting plant material, particularly seeds from the wild as well as from cultivated sources. Our target area is the East Coast of Australia, particularly New South Wales. Our collectors spend weeks in the field often in hot and humid weather tracking down rare and common species to bring back to the Australian PlantBank.

With each species we collect we aim to identify the best way to grow and store plant material for future conservation purposes. This might be restoration of a threatened species in the wild or sustainable use of rainforest species with value as crops or medicine.
Rainforest species are often highly adapted to their environments and behave very differently away from their natural environments. So different techniques are needed for ‘ex situ’ - away from the natural site - conservation. Some species have seeds that can be easily stored in the seed bank. Others require tissue culture or cryogenic storage for long-term conservation. 

Our eventual aim is make information on conservation of rainforest plants publicly available and to work with others with a stake in conserving our rainforests.

Research update
Latest publications
Further publications


Why are we investigating conservation of Australian rainforest?
Does rainforest occur in NSW?
Do we have World Heritage rainforest in NSW?
How does this project contribute to global plant conservation?
How easy is it to collect rainforest seed?
What happens to the seeds that are collected?
Are the seeds of rainforest species different to dryland species?
How do you test whether seeds can be seedbanked?
If a seed is not sensitive to desiccation, does this mean it will live for a long time in the seed bank?
Are there alternatives to seed banking for long-term conservation?
What is tissue culture?
What is cryostorage?
Is capacity building in Australia and other parts of the world part of this project?
Who funds the Australian Rainforest project and can I help?
Where else can I get information about rainforests?
Where can I find information about conservation techniques?