26 September 2023

Climate turns up heat on botanic gardens

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Horticulturists and Scientists at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV) have teamed up to prepare one of the world’s great botanic gardens for the effects of climate change.

Director and Chief Executive at RBGV, Tim Entwisle said that in the next 50 years, 20 to 50 per cent of current plant species in botanic gardens and urban landscapes would likely confront temperatures those species had never before experienced.

“Last month a giant White Oak (Quercus alba) that had stood for over 150 years on the famous Oak Lawn at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, simply collapsed,” Mr Entwisle said.

“We investigated every option possible to save it, but in the end the damage and stress was simply too extensive,” he said.

“We are not sure yet of the cause of its demise, but it [is] likely to be a mix of old age, droughts, winds and climate change.”

Mr Entwisle said climate change was a threat to plant and human life, and was already changing what could be grown in streets, parks and gardens.

He said that in 2017, RBGV had commissioned an assessment of nearly three-quarters of its living collections, testing their viability and likely survival in Melbourne’s predicted hotter climate of 2090.

“Over a quarter of plant species at RBGV were rated as a high-risk of not surviving in the Melbourne climate of 2090,” he said.

Mr Entwisle said that in response to the findings, RBGV developed the Landscape Succession Strategy – a blueprint for adapting Melbourne Gardens to climate change.

He said the strategy would guide the transition of the Melbourne Gardens from existing plantings to a collection better suited to the projected climate and environmental conditions of 2090.

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