“We also need to look at how prevalent and important hybridisation is in a species. In this case we found many of our cultivated seedlings were the result of hybridisation between the rare “Cattai” eucalypt and nearby eucalypts.
“Eucalypts are notorious for being promiscuous and will readily receive pollen from other eucalypt species. They are certainly often not choosy when it comes to mating.”
Results from the study were used to help with the translocation of genetically ‘pure’ and healthy cultivated seedlings to nearby suitable habitat.
Researchers found there were only 14 populations of the eucalypt in the Sydney area, with just 700 individuals left in the wild.
The critically endangered eucalypt is restricted to a 40km2
area of Sydney and is threatened by increased urbanisation.
The NSW Government gave it an initial listing as endangered in 1999 before finally declaring it to be critically endangered in 2015.
Dr Samantha Yap, of the Institute’s Research Centre for Ecosystem Resilience, says the work has been a collaborative conservation effort between the Institute, Jiangsu University in China and the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program
“For effective conservation, the first step should be to assess what’s a rare species and what is not, and a genetic study presents a very effective approach,” she says.
“Once it’s known to be rare, we must then focus efforts to save it. There can be a lot of roadblocks in the way of species discovery, and that’s why many haven’t been formally described yet. Recent advances in technology and skills are lending better resolving power to overcome these hurdles.