Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 367–377 | Cite as

A preliminary assessment of changes in plant-dwelling insects when threatened plants are translocated

  • Melinda L. MoirEmail author
  • Peter A. Vesk
  • Karl E. C. Brennan
  • Lesley Hughes
  • David A. Keith
  • Michael A. McCarthy
  • David J. Coates
  • Sarah Barrett


Translocation of threatened species is a tool used increasingly to conserve biodiversity, but the suite of co-dependent species that use the threatened taxa as hosts can be overlooked. We investigate the preliminary impact of translocating three threatened plant species on insect species and the integrity of insect assemblages that depend on these plants as their hosts. We compare the insect assemblages between natural populations of the threatened species, related non-threatened plant species growing wild near the threatened plants, and threatened plants translocated to another site approximately 40 km away. We used host breadth models and a coextinction risk protocol to determine which insect species are potentially host-specific on the threatened plants, and then assessed these insects’ potential presence at the translocation site. We found that insect assemblages on naturally-occurring threatened plants had more individuals, higher species density and higher species richness than assemblages on translocated plants. For one plant species, Leucopogon gnaphalioides, species composition differed significantly between wild and translocated populations (P < 0.001). Furthermore, four insect species that were host-specific to Banksia brownii and B. montana were not detected on the translocated plants. Instead, translocated plants supported insect assemblages more similar to those of related plant species from the surrounding area. We conclude that threatened plant translocations that involve seed collection and propagation may have limited benefit for individual dependent species or the supported insect assemblage. Additional conservation actions will be required to maintain the diversity of insect assemblages and host-dependent relationships.


Assisted colonization Conservation planning Coextinction risk Host specificity Plant-insect interactions Translocation 



Grants from the Australian Research Council (DP0772057) and Australia & Pacific Science Foundation (APSF 07/3) supported this work. We thank P. Luscombe for his enthusiasm in the translocation experiment conducted on his property, and assistance with plant identifications. We gratefully thank B. Hanich, R. Oberprieler, G.S. Taylor, A. Szito, P.J. Gullan, S. Barker and C.A.M. Reid for taxonomic assistance. Finally, two anonymous reviewers and Editor T. Shreeve are thanked for their time and useful suggestions on this paper.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 157 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melinda L. Moir
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter A. Vesk
    • 1
  • Karl E. C. Brennan
    • 2
  • Lesley Hughes
    • 3
  • David A. Keith
    • 4
    • 5
  • Michael A. McCarthy
    • 1
  • David J. Coates
    • 6
  • Sarah Barrett
    • 7
  1. 1.School of BotanyUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Western Australian Department of Environment & ConservationKalgoorlieAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia
  4. 4.NSW National Parks & Wildlife ServiceHurstvilleAustralia
  5. 5.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  6. 6.Western Australian Department of Environment & ConservationBentley DCAustralia
  7. 7.Western Australian Department of Environment & ConservationAlbanyAustralia

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