If there was a miracle product that could cure physical diseases, improve mental health, provide ongoing food and shelter, boost the general wellbeing of the world’s population and more? How much would you pay to get your hands on it? The biodiversity of our environment is just such a miracle product — yet like all unsung heroes, it doesn’t get the credit it deserves, and it needs our help.
A century ago, Australia was under siege. Headlines screamed ‘Prickly Pear war declared,’ warning of a ‘silent invader.’ Couched in military terms, articles and silent films told the horrifying story of the ‘dreaded Prickly Pear,’ its ‘onward-march’ and the ‘battle’ to contain it. It all began innocently enough, another hundred years earlier.
A new study in NeoBiota reports that since the 1960s Australia has spent or incurred losses totalling $389.59 billion from the impact of invasive species. Costs arising from invasive plant species are the highest at $209.32 billion. Conversely, weed prevention programs such as the Gardening Responsibly Initiative, can provide a 1:100 return on investment.
The first record of an Australian plant was made by Spanish explorers in the Torres Strait in 1606. More famously, and more than a century later, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander collected 132 specimens of Australian plants at Botany Bay and added many others as the Endeavour sailed along the Australian coast. Subsequently, Banks advised on the choice of plants and seeds to be taken by the First Fleet to the new settlement. Thus began the purposeful introduction of foreign plants into Australia.