Threatened plant translocations
Project Leaders: David Coates
Research in Brief
Translocations are being increasingly used in threatened plant recovery programs. The outcomes of past translocation programs have often been poorly documented
or unpublished. This makes it hard to learn from the past experiences, to adapt and improve techniques in response to outcomes or to determine if investments
have been worthwhile.
As the number of plant translocation projects increases, it is becoming increasingly important to evaluate the success of these translocations with
meaningful and measurable criteria.
The project will develop criteria for measuring the success of plant translocation projects. It will also review the outcomes of past plant translocations
and synthesise past research in order to develop best practice guidelines for plant translocation in Australia.
B. brownii. Photo: D. Coates
Why is the research needed?
Translocations of threatened plants have been carried out over the past three decades across southern Australia. This has included at least 1000 separate
translocations, involving around 380 plant species.
However, despite the increasing focus on translocation, there has been little monitoring or assessment of whether these projects are achieving long-term
success in terms of population persistence.
At the same time threats to plants and plant communities are becoming more severe and difficult to manage. They include habitat fragmentation, rapid
environmental change, diseases, and invasive species. They present significant challenges to establishing viable new populations in threat-free habitats.
There has been insufficient synthesis of information about translocation generally, and evaluating and synthesising the current knowledge will provide
a critical resource for improving the success and status trajectory of threatened plant translocation. In particular, guidance criteria for establishment,
resilience and persistence are needed.
Further, developing criteria for translocation success that are adequate and measurable will allow change in a species’ conservation status to be assessed
and provide a more rigorous foundation for recommending the down-listing or de-listing of a species.
Lambertia orbifolia. Photo: Anne Cochrane
How will the research help?
This project will provide on-ground practical guidance for how best to implement translocations of threatened plant species to maximise their recovery
and improve their conservation status. This guidance will be backed by rigorous evidence on the operational, ecological, genetic and environmental
factors influencing success or failure in translocation projects. It will also increase our capacity to monitor and measure the success of translocations
of threatened plant species.
The project will synthesise and analyse knowledge about past plant translocations, developing a national framework that builds on data held by state agencies,
NGO groups, community groups and researchers. It will also co-ordinate a review and updating of the current Guidelines for Translocation of Threatened
Plants in Australia, based on expert input from plant translocation practitioners across Australia.
Leonie Monks, Rebecca Dillon and Sarah Barrett collecting seed from a Lambertia orbifolia translocation. Photo: Dave Coates
The research will deliver improved conservation status for 17 EPBC-listed threatened plant species through experimental translocations. Criteria for
success will be developed based on these case studies. The criteria will increase our ability to assess population viability and will provide a more
rigorous foundation for recommending the down-listing or de-listing of threatened species when translocation has been successful. It will also explore
other approaches to assess persistence and success based on molecular genetic and genomic techniques. These techniques can complement more traditional
measures such as establishment, survival, vegetative growth, reproductive output and recruitment.
What research activities are being undertaken?
The project has six main parts:
Rebecca Dillon and Sarah Barrett at a Banksia brownii translocation. Photo: Leonie Monks
- An evaluation and synthesis of current knowledge. A database of Australian plant translocations has been assembled through extensive expert consultation
and literature review. A meta-analysis will examine the characteristics and distribution of translocationsand examine factors influencing their
- Field trials, to further understand and develop criteria to measure success. The refined success criteria can be used to confidentlyreassess the conservation
status of species for consideration in downgrading or de-listing.
- Evaluation of alternative measures of translocation success and key factors for success involving biotic interactions. The project will explore molecular
genetic and translocation techniques to compare genetic variation between reintroduced and source populations, analyse mating system parameters
to determine inbreeding and infer pollinator behaviour, and investigate the importance of mycorrhizal associations in translocation success of
orchids and other species.
- Revision of the Guidelines for Translocation of Threatened Plants in Australia. The Australian Network for Plant Conservation published the Guidelines
in 2004, and it remains the only Australian synthesis of the best techniques and templates for translocations. The project will update the guidelines
and publish them online.
- Developing working examples of best practice translocation for threatened plants. These will be included in the Guidelines.
- Scoping the benefits of gene pool mixing for threatened plant translocations. The research will consider the benefits of mixing gene pools to increase
success through increasing genetic diversity.
Who is involved?
The project is being led by the University of Queensland in close collaboration with Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions,
the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne and South Australia’s Department for the Environment and Water.
Where is the research happening?
The research will include a nationwide review of threatened plant translocations. Targeted field work will also occur in Western Australia, South Australia
When is the research happening?
The project will run for four years from 2016 to 2019.
For more information please contact: David Coates - firstname.lastname@example.org
Top image: Grevillea batrachioides Lesueur grevillea. Photo: Andrew Crawford