Protecting Western Australia’s rich biodiversity while enabling economic development will be easier in the future thanks to a new scientific collaboration and co-ordination efforts actively supported by the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority.

Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority seed collector on a conservation mission.

The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute (WABSI) is a partnership between industry, research bodies and government agencies including the BGPA.

WABSI Chief Executive Officer Peter Zurzolo said WABSI would improve access to good information, lifting the level of public debate and discussion about biodiversity conservation.

'One of the most exciting things about WABSI is that it has been created with broad consultation across all interested parties and its formation has been welcomed by all', Mr Zurzolo said.

'The Australian continent is one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth, and WA hosts the majority, and some of the most important, of these biodiversity assets. WA is home to eight of Australia’s 15 declared biodiversity hotspots, including the South West which is an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot.'

'There are vast numbers of species in WA, with more being discovered and formally named all the time. For example, there are about 13,000 species of native plants in the State, plus more than 500 reptile and 1600 fish species. There are hundreds of thousands of invertebrate species.'

'Of the 141 species of mammal found in WA, 25 are found nowhere else, while around 60 per cent of our plant species are unique to WA', he said.

'Protecting this natural wealth while enabling the state’s vibrant mining and agricultural sectors to flourish is a challenge. Yet all major stakeholders – researchers, industry, conservationists and government – agree that better access to good information is the key to more constructive debate and better decision making.'

'WABSI will provide the knowledge base required to deliver more targeted and timely advice to help manage WA’s terrestrial biodiversity.'

'Development and biodiversity can co-exist, but only with robust scientific information that can be used by decision makers to avoid and minimise impacts and, where necessary, develop complementary management strategies.'

WABSI has been established as an independent entity, overseen by a representative board and administered by a small executive team. The State Government, through the Department of Premier and Cabinet is providing start-up funds for the institute. Its initial funding continues until 2020. Foundation partners in the collaborative venture are the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, CSIRO, The University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Murdoch University, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Environmental Protection Authority, Department of Mines and Petroleum, and the WA Museum.

Visit the Kings Park Science section to learn more about biodiversity research.

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