Assessing genetic risk in revegetation.

Published online
30 Nov 2011
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Byrne, M. & Stone, L. & Millar, M. A.
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Revegetation can provide major environmental benefits in degraded landscapes, but there is also potential for negative impacts from genetic change in local native populations. Broad areas of revegetation may provide a large source of foreign genes in landscapes where small remnant native populations act as a sink. Genetic change from hybridisation can threaten population persistence and contribute to species extinction through genetic assimilation or demographic swamping. Implementation of revegetation within a risk management framework allows identification of risk factors, analysis and evaluation of risk to inform decision-making and management to minimise and mitigate the risk. Informed analysis and evaluation of genetic risk is important in revegetation because it will be difficult to control or reverse the impacts in natural ecosystems and they are often not expressed until the second generation or later. A risk assessment protocol is presented based on evaluation of factors that influence the likelihood and consequences of adverse genetic change from revegetation arising through pollen dispersal. The assessment is applicable to a broad range of revegetation activities and contributes to the development of informed decision-making processes in implementation of revegetation systems and land use practices that protect and enhance biodiversity in degraded landscapes. Synthesis and applications. Implementation of revegetation programmes within a risk management framework will help to ensure that significant environmental benefits are captured with minimal concomitant negative impacts on the surrounding biodiversity. A genetic risk protocol provides a tool for evaluation of potential adverse genetic impacts on native populations from revegetation and can be implemented in conjunction with weed risk assessment. Risk assessment as an integral part of evaluation of environmental impact for large-scale revegetation programmes will contribute to the development of informed decision-making processes in the implementation of revegetation systems, and ultimately, it will aid in the development of land uses that protect and enhance biodiversity in degraded landscapes.

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