Durrell helping to save rare local plants in a pro-active partnership

A team at Durrell has been asked to propagate a number of locally rare and declining plant species by the Environment Division of the Planning and Environment Department.

The Environment Division has recently launched Biodiversity Action Plans for nineteen threatened plant species, and Durrell staff are attempting to propagate those species in need of a population boost, both from seed and vegetative cuttings.

This work will require some experimentation to find optimal propagation techniques. To date, four species are being grown in Durrell’s plant propagation unit, as follows:

Fragaria vesca ‘Wild Strawberry’ - proving very easy to propagate both from offsets and seed.

Dianthus gallicus ‘Jersey Pink’ - again proving easily struck from cutting material. Seed is setting on the one plant supplied by the Environmental Division and attempts to germinate the seed will follow shortly.

Anogramma leptophylla ‘Jersey Fern’ - will prove more challenging and sowing of the spores has taken place.

Linaria vulgaris ‘Common Toadflax’  - seed has been sown in the last few days.

Other plant species will be propagated as seed or cutting material becomes available. Some of these plant species are so severely threatened that just finding specimens for propagation is a real challenge.

The aim of this project is to maintain the genetic diversity of these locally rare plant species and to provide propagated plants for the Environment Division to return to the wild to boost wild populations. A further outcome would be the development and production of propagation guidelines for future possible implementation. This is just one strand of the Action Plans aimed at safeguarding the future of these important plant species.

Although propagating plants may seem a long way from Durrell’s usual animal conservation work, the basic principles of breeding animals and plants in captivity for future reintroduction are in fact very similar:
• Great care is taken to acquire individuals from known locations in the wild without harming the viability of the wild population;
• Knowledge of the natural habitat and lifestyle of the species is then used to provide optimal conditions for propagation/breeding;
• The ‘captive’ population, whether plant or animal, is carefully managed to maintain genetic diversity;
• After considerable planning, ‘captive-bred’ individuals can be reintroduced to suitable locations in the wild, provided that the original reasons for population decline have been addressed;
• Reintroduced individuals are carefully monitored, and the habitat carefully managed to ensure the long-term survival of the population.

Posted 27 September 2006

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