Anthropogenic loss and fragmentation of natural habitats is now is at unprecedented levels, making land use change one of the most important drivers affecting biodiversity. Within the southwest WA biodiversity hotspot, the Swan Coastal Plain bioregion was historically cleared for agriculture and forestry, and is now experiencing extensive land clearing for urbanisation.
Conospermum undulatum is an endemic plant species of the Swan Coastal Plain, and is now ranked as ‘Vulnerable’ by the Western Australia legislation. The significant reduction in population size, connectivity and density of remnant patches are likely to constrain the sexual reproduction of this species by altered plant-pollinator interactions and expression of inbreeding depression because of reduced gene flow between unrelated individuals. Moreover, putative hybrids between C. undulatum and more common Conospermum species have been identified on a morphological basis.
Little is known about C. undulatum biology. With this project, I aim to address key research gaps of the endangered C. undulatum through a detailed study of the genetic diversity, contemporary pollen-mediated gene flow, pollinator behaviour, and pollen limitation of this plant species. I also aim to genetically confirm the presence of hybrids and to assess whether genetic introgression is posing a threat to the species. The knowledge gained from my research will inform recovery plans and actions to enhance the future persistence of C. undulatum by means of an improved awareness of factors that constrain both C. undulatum reproduction and its adaptation ability over long-term.
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