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Recent key outcomes from the Conservation Genetics team include the genetic provenance atlas, molecular ecophysiological assessment of provenance, restoration genetics of key communities, defining biologically significant units and assessing the dispersal of large seeded forest species.
Genetic provenance atlas
With funding from the ARC, significant progress has been made towards a genetic provenance atlas for native plant community restoration in urban bushland remnants in south Western Australia, with genetic provenance information for more than 50 local species now achieved. Species most recently assessed genetically include Banksia menziesii, B. attenuata, Alexgeorgea nitens, Eucalyptus gomphocephala, Persoonia longifolia, Stylidium hispidum, and Daviesia divaricata. This information helps identify local provenance seed collection zones, makes restoration activities more efficient and conserves biodiversity within species.
Molecular ecophysiological assessment of provenance
With funding from the ARC and industry partners Alcoa World Alumina Australia, Worsley Alumina and Greening Australia, a molecular ecophysiological approach assessed the importance of using local provenance seed in native plant community restoration. Outcomes include an assessment of population genomic and phylogeographic variation in Gompholobium spp. and Eucalyptus gomphocephala (tuart), the development and utilization of non-neutral genetic marker techniques such as expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and microarrays, assessment of genetic provenance variation in Jarrah forest populations of the snottygobble Persoonia longifolia, a major field-based experiment to assess the potential for outbreeding depression following mixing of genetic provenances of triggerplants (Stylidium spp), and large-scale reciprocal transplant experiments in E. gomphocephala (tuart) and Gompholobium marginatum and G. polymorphum to assess home-site advantage.
Restoration genetics of Banksia woodlands
With funding from the ARC and industry partner Rocla Quarry products, the management of evolutionary-ecological processes in the restoration of Banksia woodlands that will be resilient to global environmental changes has been addressed. Population genetic assessments and large-scale reciprocal field trials are being conducted on keystone Banksia species. A genetic assessment of variation and mating of restored and natural populations of B. attenuata and B. menziesii has highlighted the successful genetic management of restoration with this species, and the successful restoration of critical pollinator services for reproductive functionality within restored populations.
Restoration genetics of seagrasses
With funding from the ARC and Cockburn Cement, genetic variation and spatial genetic structure has been assessed with microsatellites in the sea-grass Posidonia australis at multiple spatial scales, from meters to nationally, with a focus on Cockburn Sound. Through assignment approaches, genetic markers have also identified the scale and direction of the movement of pollen and seed. Genetic results have been interpreted to generate genetic guidelines for seed and propagule sourcing, underpinning improved seagrass restoration efforts.
Conservation genetics of acacias
A three-year research program on the conservation genetics of the priority listed narrowly endemic Acacia karina continued, with funding from Karara Mining Ltd. Key outcomes include the quantification and characterisation of spatial genetic structure and variation, the assessment of key population genetic processes such as mating and dispersal, molecular resolution of the phylogeny of A. karina and related species, the application of DNA barcoding for the rapid identification of Acacia species in the region, and the development of whole genome DNA barcoding for Acacias. This research underpins the conservation and management of threatened Acacia species.
Genetic provenance variation of riparian tree species in the Pilbara
With funding from Rio-Tinto, microsatellites have been used to characterise genetic variation within and among populations of the Pilbara species Eucalyptus camaldulensis, E. victrix and Melaleuca argentea, associated with impacts from mining on Weeli Wolli springs. Key outcomes include the finding that the Eucalypts display greater genetic variation that is more weakly structured within and among creeks than the Melaleuca.
Defining biologically significant units in spinifex
With funding from the ARC and industry partners Rio Tinto and Chevron, DNA sequencing and microsatellites are being applied to resolve biologically significant units at multiple scales in spinifex. Research outcomes will include taxonomic resolution for species complexes in the Pilbara and an understanding of genecologically significant variation within species that will underpin improved ecological restoration outcomes in the Pilbara.
Dispersal of large seeded forest species
With funding from the ARC, ecological genetic research if focusing on the role of emus as vectors for the long-distance dispersal of seed of the Jarrah forest species Leucopogon nutans, Persoonia elliptica, Macrozamia riedlei, and Podocarpus drouynianus. Key outcomes include the characterization of realized dispersal of seed and pollen at many kilometres, underpinning an understanding of the impact of a loss of these vectors on key population genetic processes, and the implications of this for plants to respond to a changing environment.