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Joint Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Queensland Environment Minister
Mr Dean Wells

2 May 2003

Grasses: The Backbone of Australia's Natural Economy

The importance of grass, the under-appreciated basis of Australia's pastoral and agricultural industries, its sports fields and its landscapes, is about to become better known through the first results of national research released today at the Queensland Herbarium.

The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, and Queensland Environment Minister, Dean Wells, today launched important resources to document and identify Australian grasses - the result of research funded by a contribution of over $800,000 from the Federal Government, including $200,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust program.

The Queensland Government has also contributed over $200,000 to the project.

These resources include a book (Poaceae 1 Introduction and Atlas) that provides, for the first time in over a century, an overview of Australia's grass species and a CD-ROM (AusGrass) that provides a user-friendly guide for their identification.

The two works represent the first dividends from a decade of research by the Australian Biological Resources Study (a program of Environment Australia) and the Queensland Herbarium (part of the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency), with input from scientists from around the country and overseas.

"Australia's 1300 grass species are found in all parts of the country, from the coast to the top of mountains, from rainforests to deserts. Most are native grasses playing an unheralded role in soil stabilisation, water control and as a baseline food resource for both domestic stock and an enormous range of native animals and insects," said Dr Kemp.

"Grasses, native and introduced, are the unrecognised backbone of the country's natural economy and provide pastures for stock, all of our grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye, rice, millet, sorghum) and sugar cane, playing field turf, domestic lawns and horticultural species."

Queensland Environment Minister, Dean Wells, said the publications, and their companion books still in preparation, would make grass identification, and detailed information on their economic values and uses, accessible to all.

"Clearly knowledgeable management of this immense resource is of critical importance for Australia but until now reliable identification of species has been extremely difficult and the preserve of a small number of specialists," said Mr Wells.

Dr Kemp added: "This project has been an excellent example of State and Commonwealth botanists working cooperatively on a biodiversity project of national importance and has resulted in this state-of-the-art guide to one of Australia's most important plant groups."

Poaceae 1 Introduction and Atlas is part of the world-acclaimed series Flora of Australia published by the Australian Biological Resources Study, a 60-volume account of the plants of Australia. The book provides reviews of Australian grass classification, fossil history, ecology and economic values, and distribution maps for all 1403 species and varieties found in Australia.

The accompanying CD-ROM interactive identification guide, AusGrass: Grasses of Australia, is a self-contained electronic tool. With this and a computer, it is possible to identify and access a wide range of information on any species.

Further information on both the book and CD and how to purchase them can be found on the ABRS web site at

Media Contacts:
Catherine Job Dr Kemp's office (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400
Annastacia Palaszczuk Mr Wells' office (07) 3225 1819 or 0419 679 354

Commonwealth of Australia