Preserving Biodiversity – John Wardle Architects’ Bushfire Recovery Auction
Australia

Photography Trevor Mein
Words Aaron Grinter

Summer 2019-2020 saw some of the worst fires Australia has ever experienced – in Victoria alone, more than one and a half million hectares were burnt. To contribute to the recovery, John Wardle Architects has partnered with Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria in the Biodiversity Recovery Project, an initiative focused on regenerating biodiversity in fire-affected regions. The latest step in the project is an auction to raise funds for the recovery, with the major item being a weekend away at the award-winning Shearer’s Quarters on Bruny Island.

The Biodiversity Recovery Project takes on the ambitious task of collecting seeds from 45 critically endangered Victorian plants for propagation and seed-banking. John Wardle Architects donated $30,000, with an additional $25,000 donated by friends of the practice, to support expeditions to harvest seeds and cuttings from Victoria’s most threatened plant species, taking place in December this year. Tim Entwisle, Director and Chief Executive at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, calls this project the “Plant Insurance Policy for Victoria” with the aim to “increase the capacity of [RBGV] labs and nurseries – the plant hospital if you will – to restore devastated plants.”

The effect of the fires was tragic for local communities, with lives and livelihoods lost, and disastrous for the native flora and fauna. Overall, 244 plant and animal species, including 215 rare or threatened species, had more than 50% of their habitat burnt. The impact on flora, in particular, cannot be overstated. Of these 244 species, 224 are plants, with 13 species having more than 95% of their entire known habitat affected by the fires. The flow-on effects of this are catastrophic, as these plants provide important habitat and food for animals.

The next phase of the Biodiversity Recovery Project is the Bushfire Recovery Auction to raise funds for more seed collection and to expand the ‘plant hospital’ propagating plants.

In recognition of the importance of biodiversity to the health of the ecosystem, the next phase of the Biodiversity Recovery Project is the Bushfire Recovery Auction to raise funds for more seed collection and to expand the ‘plant hospital’ propagating plants. John Wardle Architects is offering a range of design items especially for the auction, with the biggest-ticket item being a weekend away staying at the Robin Boyd Award-winning Shearers Quarters on John Wardle’s Bruny Island family property. Other auction items include a series of concept plans for an evolution of the Shearers Quarters, named The Retreat, a series of Breakfast in Bed Trays designed by John Wardle Architects, and a collection of books and ceramic works. The auction runs online from November 17-30.

Other auction items include a series of concept plans for an evolution of the Shearers Quarters, named The Retreat, a series of Breakfast in Bed Trays designed by John Wardle Architects, and a collection of books and ceramic works. The auction runs online from November 17-30.

With the increasing effects of climate change, fires are going to be more frequent, and recurring fires can severely impact the ability of plant populations to recover (or return), meaning that intervention projects like this are increasingly important. As well as for use in regeneration, seed collection of the type that will be funded by the auction is necessary to secure the future of endangered species. Tim explains, “seed and propagation material collected by the Biodiversity Recovery Project will enable RBGV to regenerate habitat critical for wildlife survival and biodiversity restoration in bushfire affected areas. It will also enable RBGV to secure rare plants species for the Victorian Conservation Seedbank.”

Preserving plant biodiversity in regions where plant species are critically endangered is key to safeguarding the future of Victoria’s natural environment. Recognising that the plant communities affected by the fire are vital not only to the local animals and ecosystems but for the health of Victoria as a whole, John Wardle Architects’ Bushfire Recovery Auction is the next step in an important initiative.

The Bushfire Recovery Auction is running online from November 17- 30 and direct tax-deductible donations can also be made.

Published 27 November, 2020
Photography  Trevor Mein
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