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

31 August 1999


Biodiversity Month kicks-of in September with a celebration of Australia's national floral emblem, Golden Wattle on Wednesday, Dr Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, said today.

"Wattle has a unique place in our national culture. As well as being one of our most readily recognisable plants and part of the Coat of Arms, it is also the inspiration for our national colours, green and gold," Dr Stone said.

"Wattle seed bush-tucker has even made its way onto our trendy restaurants menus, and also features in some Anzac biscuit recipes."

Worldwide there are around 1500 different species of wattle. Australia is home to over 900 species, with all but 10-15 species found only in Australia.

"Wattle is a fascinating species because of its great contrasts. As well as being one of our most beautiful flowering plants, some species such as the prickly and coastal wattle are now on the move, colonising areas were they push out less vigorous plants."

Wattle has also been the subject of a major Natural Heritage Trust project. Over the past two years $85,000 has been injected into establishing a national electronic database to identify and map the location of Australia's wattle species. When completed in December, the Flora of Australia: Guide to Australian Acacias (wattle) will be a valuable resource for community groups, researchers and farmers.

Dr Stone said September was a great month to celebrate Australia's 'mega-diversity', with wattle blooming and spring blossoming around the country.

"Australia is only one of 12 'mega-diverse' nations in the world. What makes it even more special is that the vast majority of Australia's precious plant and animal species are found no where else on the planet."

"Over the past 200 years European settlement has had a devastating impact on our unique and fragile natural resources."

"70% of all native bushland has been cleared or modified, dryland salinity has wasted around 2.5 million hectares of productive land and we have lost 20 mammal, 9 bird and 97 plant species through extinction," Dr Stone said.

"Biodiversity month is all about raising awareness of the importance of our unique plant and animal species and fragile eco-systems with city and country communities."

"The Federal Government is keen to involve everyone in this year's Natural Heritage Trust grants. If you have an idea about how you or your community can help protect Australia's natural resources we want to know about it. Applications will be called in October, so now is the time to start thinking about how you can help," Dr Stone said.

Other events during Biodiversity Month include National Threatened Species Day on 7 September and the Australian National Botanical Gardens seminar series every Wednesday throughout the month.

Further information about the Natural Heritage Trust is available by calling the freecall hotline on 1800 065 823.

For further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia