The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
REVIEW

Arid awakening: new opportunities for Australian plant natural product research

B. S. Simpson A C E , V. Bulone B , S. J. Semple C , G. W. Booker D , R. A. McKinnon A C and P. Weinstein D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, Flinders University, Bedford Park, SA 5042, Australia.

B ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls and School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide, Waite Campus, Urrbrae, SA 5064, Australia.

C School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

D School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: bradley.simpson@flinders.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 38(5) 467-478 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ16004
Submitted: 13 January 2016  Accepted: 13 August 2016   Published: 9 September 2016

Abstract

The importance of plants and other natural reserves as sources for biologically important compounds, particularly for application in food and medicine, is undeniable. Herein we provide a historical context of the major scientific research programs conducted in Australia that have been aimed at discovering novel bioactive natural products from terrestrial plants. Generally speaking, the main approaches used to guide the discovery of novel bioactive compounds from natural resources have included random, ethnobotanical and chemotaxonomic strategies. Previous Australian plant natural product research campaigns appear to have lacked the use of a fourth strategy with equally high potential, namely the ecologically guided approach. In addition, many large studies have sampled plant material predominantly from tropical regions of Australia, even though arid and semi-arid zones make up 70% of mainland Australia. Therefore, plants growing in arid zone environments, which are exposed to different external stressors (e.g. low rainfall, high ultraviolet exposure) compared with tropical flora, remain an untapped reservoir of potentially novel bioactive compounds. Research of Australian arid zone plants that is ecologically guided creates a new opportunity for the discovery of novel bioactive compounds from plants (and potentially other biota) for application in health care, food and agricultural industries.

Additional keywords: agriculture, commercialisation, ecology, food, Indigenous, pharmaceutical.


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