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Preparing threatened plants for translocation: does home soil addition and nutrient loading improve growth and flowering?

Abstract

Translocation of threatened plants is increasingly being used as a conservation or mitigation action. The success of this practice is mixed and methods to increase likelihood of success are commonly investigated. Using a long-lived perennial shrub endemic to the Sydney Basin, Australia, as a case study, we examined the role of pre-planting nutrient loading (High, Low) and addition of Provenance (home soil) on growth and flowering, where Provenance soils had on average 50% lower nutrients than the Low treatment. We found that Provenance- and Low-treated plants grew better under propagation compared to High treatments, but these differences did not persist. At 11 months post-planting, Provenance-treated plants had growth rates no different from any other treatments and that plants under both High and Provenance soil treatments had higher peak flowering events, indicating that Provenance-treated soils could confer a flowering advantage akin to fertilisation. This study demonstrates that there were no negative effects of growing plants using home soil, despite a lower nutrient status than standard propagation medium. Translocations, particularly reintroduction or augmentation, should consider home soil treatment within pilot studies as a simple and cost-effective method of potentially reducing transplant shock, providing ethical and phytosanitary measures are addressed.

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Acknowledgements

This paper is dedicated to Lutz Jerofke and to Ingrid Liermann, keen naturalists and co-discoverers of one H. spanantha population. We acknowledge the invaluable support of-Hornsby Shire Council and Community Nursery staff and volunteers, particularly Mark Hood, Simon Dunne and Mary Warner. We also acknowledge Erica Mahon, NSW Saving Our Species, the staff and Directors of AMBS Ecology and Heritage for their support of this project. Thank you also to Associate Professor Tina Bell and Danica Parnell, University of Sydney, for assistance with preliminary soil analysis and mycorrhizal staining and to Stephen Young of the NSW Soil Conservation Service for soil collection.

Funding

Research has been conducted as part of the National Environmental Science Programme’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub (Project 1.3) and funding has been provided by the New South Wales Government Saving Our Species program.

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BP and CD (early career) developed the study concept and design. Data collection and material preparation, including maintenance of plants, was performed by CD and RR. Data analysis was conducted by CD and MO. The first draft of the manuscript was written by CD. All authors commented on and contributed to previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Chantelle A. T. Doyle.

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Planting and implementation were undertaken with a NSW Scientific Licence, approved by the New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

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Doyle, C.A.T., Pellow, B.J., Rapmund, R.A. et al. Preparing threatened plants for translocation: does home soil addition and nutrient loading improve growth and flowering?. Plant Ecol 222, 829–842 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-021-01146-0

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Keywords

  • Augmentation
  • Whole soil
  • Threatened flora
  • Propagation
  • Provenance
  • Nursery standards
  • Reintroduction