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

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

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9 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-377
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Insect Conservation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

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