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Identifying predictors of translocation success in rare plant species

September 28, 2023

The fundamental goal of a rare plant translocation is to create self-sustaining populations with the evolutionary resilience to persist in the long-term. Yet most plant translocation syntheses focus on a few factors influencing short-term benchmarks of success (e.g., survival and reproduction). Short-term benchmarks can be misleading when trying to infer future growth and viability because the factors that promote establishment may differ from those required for long-term persistence. We assembled a large (n = 275) and broadly representative dataset of well-documented and monitored (7.9 years on average) at-risk plant translocations to identify the most important site attributes, management techniques, and species traits for six life-cycle benchmarks and population metrics of translocation success. Using the random forest algorithm, we found that drivers of translocation outcomes varied across timeframes and metrics of success. Management techniques had the greatest relative influence on the attainment of life-cycle benchmarks and short-term population trends while site attributes and species traits were more important for population persistence and longer-term trends. Specifically, large founder sizes increased the potential for reproduction and recruitment into the next generation, while declining habitat quality and the outplanting of species with low seed production led to increased extinction risks and a reduction in potential reproductive output in the long-term, respectively. We also detected novel interactions between some of the most important drivers, such as an increased probability of next-generation recruitment in species with greater seed production rates, but only when coupled with large founder sizes. Since most significant barriers to plant translocation success can be overcome by improving techniques or resolving site-level issues through early intervention and management, we suggest that by combining long-term monitoring with adaptive management, translocation programs can enhance the prospects of achieving long-term success.

Publication Year 2024
Title Identifying predictors of translocation success in rare plant species
DOI 10.1111/cobi.14190
Authors Joe Bellis, Oyomoare L. Osazuwa-Peters, Joyce Maschinski, Matthew J. Keir, Elliott W. Parsons, Thomas N. Kaye, Michael Kunz, Jennifer Possley, Eric Menges, Stacy A. Smith, Daniela Roth, Debbie Brewer, William E. Brumback, James J. Lange, Christal Niederer, Jessica B. Turner-Skoff, Megan Bontrager, Richard Braham, Michelle Coppoletta, Karen D. Holl, Paula Williamson, Timothy J. Bell, Jayne L. Jonas, Kathryn McEachern, Kathy L. Robertson, Sandra J. Birnbaum, Adam Dattilo, John J. Dollard, Jeremie Fant, Wendy Kishida, Peter Lesica, Steven O. Link, Noel B. Pavlovic, Jackie Poole, Charlotte M. Reemts, Peter Stiling, David D. Taylor, Jonathan H. Titus, Priscilla J. Titus, Edith D. Adkins, Timothy Chambers, Mark W. Paschke, Katherine D. Heinman, Matthew A. Albrecht
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Biology
Index ID 70249473
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center