Webinar 5: Biosecurity surveillance and partnerships at Melbourne Gardens

Melbourne Gardens, one of two sites of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, contains around 8000 plant taxa originating from 98% of the world’s countries.

Safeguarding these living assets and preventing biosecurity threats requires early warning of exotic pest incursions and strong partnerships.

In a recent webinar, Peter Symes, Curator Horticulture at Melbourne Gardens, highlighted the unique plant biosecurity risks faced by the gardens and how these risks are managed.

Peter described how the gardens’ location near Melbourne CBD, ports and docks, an international airport, a sports precinct and tourist attractions all create opportunities for pests to spread to the gardens.

While making its diverse living collection accessible to the public is an important role of a botanic gardens, people moving through the gardens from around Australia and the world is also a biosecurity risk.

“For us at Melbourne Gardens we’ve got limited control of access,” said Peter.

“During the day people can walk in freely and, unfortunately, some people think that it’s okay to walk on the garden beds.”

“If they’ve got soil on their feet, they could be walking diseases straight into our gardens.”

In response to these risks, the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria has a biosecurity policy and procedures to manage the biosecurity of their living collections and landscapes.

Peter said they are not only concerned with preventing exotic pests coming into the gardens but also stopping the spread of pests from the gardens elsewhere.

“The botanic gardens do not want to be responsible for damaging industry or other gardens and landscapes,” he said.

In Peter’s presentation he focused on two of the key principles of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria biosecurity policy: surveillance and partnerships.

He outlined three examples of detections of new plant diseases resulting from surveillance in the gardens, some of which were the first known detections on a particular species of plant.

Peter also highlighted the critical role of partnerships in biosecurity. For example, he discussed the valuable connections the gardens have built with Agriculture Victoria.

“Ultimately, all of us have a responsibility to watch out for disease or pest problems because it affects our enjoyment of our plants and landscapes. It also can affect our livelihoods,” he said.

“So, all of us have a responsibility to be partners with one another in this area.”

Watch the full webinar below to learn more about plant biosecurity in Melbourne Gardens.

This webinar was held as part of a series of webinars hosted by the Botanic Gardens Biosecurity Network. Watch the other webinars here.

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