National Parks and Wildlife Service, PO Box 1967, Hurstville, NSW 1481, Australia
Invasive plants (weeds) are a significant threat to the environment. Historically, the ornamental plant trade has been a significant pathway for weed spread. For example, over 65% of introduced plants that have naturalized in Australia are considered garden escapes (Groves et al. 2005). In Australia, there is a strong desire in industry, government and the community to reduce the use of ‘weedy’ ornamental plants and prevent future invasive plants. Major ornamental plant suppliers in Australia also want to achieve broader sustainability and environmental goals. The Plant Sure project contributes to achieving these goals by developing mechanisms for industry to prevent the use of plants that have a high risk of becoming invasive, with a focus on reducing impacts to the environment (Cherry et al. 2018).
The aim of the Plant Sure initiative is to develop a voluntary accreditation scheme for ornamental plant industries, such as forestry stewardship schemes or Plant Right California (www.plantright.org). The scheme will be underpinned by a plant risk assessment and categorization process that classifies plants according to invasive risk. Plants that pose a high risk of becoming invasive can be excluded from use, while low risk plants can be encouraged. The scheme will allow industry to take a proactive approach and assess new plant introductions to ensure they are environmentally sustainable (i.e. low invasive risk). It will also support ornamental plant industries in promoting environmentally-safe (low risk) plants, and provide training for industry and consumers to avoid the use of plants that pose an environmental weed risk. The scheme will initially be trialled in one Australian state (New South Wales) but is being designed for national uptake. It will be open to all industries along the ornamental plant ‘supply chain’, including plant breeders, growers, sellers, installers and those entities that recommend plants, such as local governments and landscape architects. The scheme will provide confidence to industry and consumers that their plant choices are environmentally sound. It will allow industry to showcase their environmental stewardship, and to develop strong brand awareness that supports a ‘self-sustaining’ voluntary scheme. By including education and training components, the Plant Sure scheme will seek to elicit long-term attitudinal and behavioural change in ornamental plant suppliers and consumers.
Invasive species experts have a role to work with the ornamental plant industry to provide weed and plant risk assessment expertise, as well as help co-design tools with industry to allow them to reduce the use of invasive plants. Robust plant risk assessments and categorization protocols, including cultivars and subspecies, that are useful and trusted by industry, government and consumers are a foundational part of the process of preventing future invasive plants. This talk outlines the first phase of the scheme development; a) collaboration and partnership building across industry, government and community, b) co-developing plant risk assessment and decision support tools, c) scoping what is needed for a successful accreditation scheme, and d) future work to establish a scheme.
Cherry H., Johnson S. & Boorman D. (2018) An ounce of prevention: an accreditation scheme for ornamental plant industries. In: Johnson S., Weston L., Wu H. & Auld B. (eds) Proceedings of the 21st Australasian Weeds Conference, Weed Biosecurity – Protecting our Future, Novotel Sydney Manly Pacific, NSW, 9–13 September 2018, p. 96–99, The Weed Society of NSW. http://caws.nzpps.org/awc_contents.php?yr=2018 (Accessed 14 April 2019).
Groves R. H., Boden R. & Lonsdale W. M. (2005) Jumping the garden fence: invasive garden plants in Australia and their environmental and agricultural impacts. CSIRO report prepared for WWF-Australia. WWF-Australia, Sydney.