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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

25 March 2004

What plant is that?

Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, today launched three new ways to identify Australia's lesser-known species.

In May last year the Australian Government committed $12.4 million in new funding for the Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS), a program of the Department of the Environment and Heritage that helps Australian's identify some of our least known plant and other species.

"The Australian Biological Resources Study is helping ensure that Australia remains a world leader in taxonomy - the naming of plants - and in managing, presenting and using biodiversity information," Dr Stone said.

"One of the products, Flora of Australia online, is the world's first national online interactive taxonomic data resource for Australia's unique plant species allowing flexible, user-defined searching."

Flora of Australia online will open up access to information about Flora of Australia to a potentially vast new national and international audience.

"With cutting-edge technology, we can now ensure that farmers, landcare groups, scientists and students can easily customise questions about flora information, such as species names, habitat, identification keys, illustrations and distribution maps, to suit their own needs," Dr Stone said.

"The online delivery of this information will make the species-level information more accessible and freely available to the broader community.

"This same data, previously published in books, was generated from research funded by ABRS grants at an estimated cost of nearly $1 million."

Dr Stone also launched today the Catalogue of Australian Liverworts and Hornworts, compiled by Dr Patrick McCarthy and A Field Guide to the Mosses and Allied Plants of Southern Australia, produced in partnership between ABRS and the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria and written by David Meagher and Bruce Fuhrer. Both publications deal with Australia's bryophytes, significant but neglected members of the Australian flora that play an important role in maintaining a healthy natural environment. Together, these two publications cost around $17,000 to publish.

"Bryophytes are especially important in semi-arid and arid Australia where along with lichens and micro-organisms, they play a significant role in binding and stabilising fragile soil, reducing water loss and maintaining nutrient levels in otherwise poor soils," Dr Stone said.

"These products demonstrate the Government's commitment to documenting the lesser-known components of Australia's biodiversity, and to improving the dissemination of essential taxonomic knowledge to land managers and other clients, with increasing emphasis on online delivery."

Commonwealth of Australia