A Genetic Assessment of Ecological Restoration Success in Banksia attenuata
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Rarely assessed in the success of ecological restoration projects is the maintenance of genetic variation in restored populations and, critically, their offspring. A founding population sourced from a limited genetic pool of nonlocal provenance seed can result in genetic bottlenecking and inbreeding, potentially reducing future population resilience and restoration success. We used microsatellite markers to assess the genetic variation of natural and restored populations, and their offspring, in Banksia attenuata R.Br. (Proteaceae), a keystone species of Banksia woodlands in south-west Australia. Both natural and restored populations, and their offspring, displayed similarly high levels of heterozygosity (He range = 0.57–0.62) and allelic diversity (Ne range = 6.67–8.86) across 7 microsatellite loci. There was very weak population divergence (FST = 0.006) between the restored population and the adjacent natural population, indicating local provenance sourcing of seed. Genetic structuring within the natural population was weak, but detectable at 10 m and more strongly genetically structured than the restored population (Sp = 0.006 and 0.002, respectively). Complete outcrossing, low-correlated paternity, and very low bi-parental inbreeding were observed in both populations. Extensive pollen dispersal was observed within and among populations, with >50% of paternity assigned to sires beyond the local population. In a greenhouse experiment, differences in the overall performance of seedlings from natural and restored populations were negligible. Results indicate the successful genetic management of B. attenuata in this restoration project, from which general principles emphasizing the use of diverse local provenance seeds, genetic integration, and delivery of pollinator services are supported.
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