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Factors that affect seedling establishment and their implications for the translocation of species at risk of extinction
South-western Australia is one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots predominantly due to its highly diverse endemic flora. Many of these endemic species are rare and are endangered by human activity. The increasing number of highly threatened species has led to the adoption of translocation of seedlings as a strategy to conserve species. Translocations have become a relatively common technique used around the globe to augment populations of endangered species populations, with variable rates of success. Past translocation studies in Western Australia have shown high seedling mortality, especially in their first summer. My PhD research aims to understand environmental factors influencing seedling growth and survival through field and glasshouse experiments. Two experimental translocations have been set up to examine the microhabitat requirements for Declared Rare Flora at the seedling stage while stress tolerance to drought and heat will be investigated in a controlled glasshouse experiment. This research will lead to new insights about environmental requirements for successful seedling establishment and provide an understanding as to the physiological limits and plasticity of rare species under drought and heat stress.
My research has significant management implications for endangered plant recovery programs and other restoration programs conducted in Mediterranean environments. Understanding abiotic and biotic factors that impact on seedling establishment will allow for a better use of resources and funding to achieve higher rates of survival to reproduction. This is highly pertinent in a rapidly changing climate where current management strategies for rare species may not be effective in warmer and drier climate scenarios.