The University of Western Australia and Perth-based mineral sands company, Iluka Resources, have formed a partnership to study and help rehabilitate areas of kwongan heathland in the State's mid-west.
Kwongan heath vegetation is known internationally as a significant biodiversity hotspot, with thousands of different plant species, including many that are rare or endangered.
The new Iluka Chair in Vegetation Science and Biogeography, Winthrop Professor Ladislav (Laco) Mucina, will study and help optimise restoration approaches for this native vegetation which is situated on more than 860 hectares of land at Iluka's Eneabba mine, 130 km southeast of Geraldton.
Professor Mucina is an international expert in biogeography and vegetation survey and mapping in arid environments, and has taught in universities on four continents. He is the author of several books, chapters and papers, and has participated in vegetation-ecological and biogeographical projects in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. For the last four years, Professor Mucina has been involved in the vegetation survey and mapping of Western Australia.
As well as helping to restore the kwongan heath in collaboration with Iluka Resources, Winthrop Professor Mucina will research the conservation and restoration of biodiversity in other species-rich shrub-lands around the world. He will also provide new opportunities for postgraduate research student training in various aspects of vegetation science.
Managing Director of Iluka Resources, David Robb, said the partnership will prove invaluable for Iluka's ongoing rehabilitation activities at Eneabba.
"Sponsorship of the UWA Chair will enable scientifically based information and studies to be conducted alongside independent experts in the field, ensuring credibility and transparency in an area of research fundamental to the long-term sustainability of kwongan heath," he said.
Some of the world's most highly cited plant scientists work at UWA's School of Plant Biology, including world-leading ecophysiologist Winthrop Professor Hans Lambers. Research from the School is internationally acclaimed also in the field of ecological rehabilitation through the work of Laureate Professor Richard Hobbs.
"This exciting partnership emerged from discussions during a recent Kwongan Foundation Workshop and the research proposed will shed much new light on vegetation communities and restoration practices for this important biodiverse WA ecosystem," Professor Lambers said.
"Moreover, the improved understanding will be of national and international significance, with likely benefits to vegetation science world-wide."
"Kwongan" is a Noongar (Aboriginal) word for sand, but botanists now use the name for low vegetation that occurs over large areas of sand-plain in WA's South-West. Kwongan health rainfall is low and soil infertile but it contains a rich diversity of flora which supports a web of life that includes many species of birds as well as honey possums, thorny devils, dibblers and other animals.
Spectacular spring wildflower displays are also characteristic of the kwongan heath, which features kangaroo paws, native orchids, trigger-plants, smoke-bush, feather-flowers, wattles, leschenaultia and carnivorous plants among isolated small trees.
About Iluka Resources:
Iluka Resources (ASX: ILU) is involved in mineral sands exploration, project development, operations and marketing. With operations across Australia and in Virginia, USA, the company is the major producer of zircon globally and largest producer of the high-grade titanium dioxide products of rutile and synthetic rutile.
Winthrop Professor Hans Lambers (UWA School of Plant Biology and (+61 8) 6488 7381
Patron of UWA's Kwongan Foundation)
Carly France (Corporate Affairs Manager, Iluka Resources) (+61 8) 9360 4751 / (+61 4) 38 900 445
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783