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Australia is characterised by a high endemic plant diversity and the presence of large areas of serpentine
soils naturally rich in heavy metals, which are characteristically occupied by metal-tolerant plants,
i.e. metallophytes. Metallophytes are ideal for decontamination and restoration of metal-contaminated sites.
Unfortunately, many metallophyte species are under threat of extinction from mining activities in the
underlying metal-rich substrates, and urgent action is required to conserve them before they are eliminated.
A centralised metallophyte database covering Australia has been initiated to manage information on metal-
tolerant native plant species, habitat and substrate characteristics. The database has also been linked to
Phoenix, a 3D-GIS program which allows the user to view the results of spatial database queries
superimposed onto an aerial photograph of Australia, and to extract information such as metal
concentrations in substrata and plant parts. Since access to the database follows the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) guidelines in not allowing the
exact location of rare or endangered species to be revealed, users who require this information will first
need to acquire the relevant Australian regulatory authorisations.
Interrogation of the metallophyte database constructed so far established that work in this field in Australia
has largely prioritised the identification of native metal accumulators and hyperaccumulators (14 in
Australia), and that far less attention has been paid to the identification of other metal-tolerant, but non-
accumulating plants, i.e. excluders. However, it is these latter species that will be critical to the success and
safety of rehabilitating metal tailings facilities. Australia is highly biodiverse, with 25,000 native species. It
is therefore very likely that many more metallophytes from the Australian flora remain to be discovered.
Improving and expanding this centralised database is crucial and constitutes one of the research priorities
for the conservation of the unique Australian metallophyte biodiversity and mine rehabilitation. The
database will assist mining companies in planning operations so as to avoid disturbance of vulnerable and
valuable metallophyte biodiversity, as well as support decision-making for remediation and restoration
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