A genetic investigation of two rare, fragmented Eucalyptus species endemic to Victoria Support of a PhD Research Study Eleanor Fox, PhD student
"An understanding of the natural world and what's in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment."
The Foundation for Australia's Most Endangered Species believes in encouraging and fostering worthwhile conservation and allied research projects with seed funding.
As part of this, we provide a monetary grant for a PhD student to further expand their research doctorate in the core discipline of conservation and environment.
Yarra Gum (Eucalyptus yarraensis) and Strzelecki Gum (Eucalyptus strzeleckii) are two Eucalyptus species which only occur in Victoria. The distributions of both species are severely fragmented and disconnected as a result of urbanisation, agricultural expansion and development since European colonisation.
This project will map the locations of populations of Strzelecki Gum and Yarra Gum across Victoria, and investigate their genetic diversity and connectivity. Genetic sequencing methods will be used to assess the genetic characteristics of Eucalyptus seed stock used in commercial revegetation projects.
Genetic data from the wild populations and seedstock will help to develop a conservation strategy for these species, and will identify priority areas for genetically diverse tree plantings. The project will provide data that is essential to creating future landscapes that include populations of these iconic species that are genetically diverse, well connected, and well-placed to adapt to future climates.
Urgency and Action:
Habitat clearing and fragmentation degrades ecological processes and functions such as gene flow and pollination processes. Land use in Victoria, Australia, has drastically changed over the past 200 years and the extent of clearing of native vegetation for agriculture and urbanisation is one of the highest in Australia. Studying the extant remnant populations of rare and/or endemic tree species can provide key information for their conservation management and provide insight into the impacts of habitat changes for similar species.
Contemporary locations of yarra gum and Strzelecki gum will be mapped through on-ground observations of these species across Victoria. The population genetics of yarra gum and Strzelecki gum will be investigated by isolating DNA from leaves sampled during field surveys. DNA genotypic data will be generated for each individual sampled using DArTseq.
Expected outcomes from research:
Outcomes from this research will provide information on;
- contemporary mapping of yarra gum and Strzelecki gum across Victoria, creating an accurate distribution map of these two species for the first time. This map will also inform future management of species by providing information about habitat preferences and potential areas for successful revegetation,
- genetic profiles of yarra gum and Strzelecki gum which can be used to conduct genetic analysis of the species to improve our understanding of population structure, genetic diversity, gene flow across the landscape, which will improve our management of these rare and threatened species, and
- provide information about the genetic makeup of nursery seed stock to test if our revegetation efforts are enhancing or degrading genetic diversity of these species.
- Federation University Australia