Conservation by translocation: establishment of Wollemi pine and associated microbial communities in novel environments
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Background and aims
Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis Jones, Hill & Allen) is a critically endangered conifer and living fossil. Translocation has been proposed as a conservation strategy to establish ‘back-ups’ to the wild population; however, knowledge regarding the environmental and biotic requirements of individuals planted in new environments is limited.
An experimental translocation was established in a new location in the wild with Wollemi pines planted along a light and elevation gradient. Specific abiotic soil properties and associated microbial communities were linked to Wollemi pine performance in these new locations to inform best practice for future translocations.
Our results indicate that soil properties can be used to select appropriate translocation sites that ensure initial establishment and growth. One year after translocation Wollemi pine had recruited a species-specific fungal community that persisted. Species-specific bacterial communities in their soil and roots formed in the second year after planting. Translocated Wollemi pines that were unhealthy and were not growing did not have the species-specific fungal community.
The long-term functional consequence of this species-specific microbial community warrants ongoing investigation. This is one of the first studies to explicitly consider the role of microbial communities during the translocation of a rare plant and such approaches will be valuable for informing best translocation practice for other rare plant species.
KeywordsMicrobial communities Edaphic properties Re-introduction Restoration Translocation
We would like to thank Tony Auld and the Wollemi pine recovery team for their approval to conduct the experimental translocation and approval to use plants from the ex situ collection of Wollemi pine. We gratefully acknowledge Dave Crestani (The Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens, Mount Tomah) for identifying plant species during the vegetation survey and also The Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens team (Mount Tomah) for assistance planting Wollemi pine and help with ongoing management of the site. Jessica Rigg was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award from the Australian Research Council.
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