Posted on 31 August 2016
In Europe semi-natural grassland habitats and their characteristic species are considered as highly threatened. Southern Belgium is an important area for the conservation of semi-natural grassland types listed in the annexes of the Habitats Directive. There is an urgent need to preserve, restore and manage the few remaining, often degraded, habitat patches. Part of this task includes the restoration of populations of critically endangered plant species that without intervention would not regenerate naturally due to restricted seed dispersal abilities and the absence of a persistent seed bank in the soil.
Botanic Garden Meise, in the framework of the EU-LIFE project “Herbages” (LIFE11NAT/BE/001060), has implemented population translocations into the wild for four critically endangered plant species (Dianthus deltoides, Helichrysum arenarium, Arnica montana and Campanula glomerata). The aim is to increase the effective size of remaining populations (reinforcement) and to restore extinct populations (reintroduction) in order to improve connectivity in the landscape. Reintroductions were prepared using a four-step approach: 1) the selection and profiling of the target species; 2) the source population selection and seed collection; 3) the development of propagation protocols and 4) the assessment of plant fitness of the populations used as seed source before planting out.
Collecting young leaf material at each source population for genetic analyses
For each species, a population of 500 to 700 young individuals was transplanted into three to six sites. Once in situ these plants (which are permanently labelled) were precisely mapped to facilitate their long-term monitoring. Each translocated population consists of a mixture of plants from different origins arranged in order to maximise pollen exchanges between different origins.
The first results have been very positive: over 90% of reintroduced individuals survived the transplantation stress, and the flowering rate (>30% on average) is impressive, sometimes just a few months after transplantation. Seedlings and clonal propagation have been observed indicating a potential for population expansion. Monitoring of reintroduced populations will continue for 10 years as only a long-term monitoring will tell what their future will be in the long run.
Please contact Sandrine Godefroid for more information about this project.
2,100 successfully propagated Arnica montana plants