A Proposed Framework for Efficient and Cost-Effective Terrestrial Orchid Conservation

Research output: Working paperPreprint


This paper presents a comprehensive and adaptive framework for orchid conservation programs illustrated with data from published and unpublished case studies. There is a specific focus on West Australian terrestrial orchids, but many of the approaches have universal relevance. Aspects of the framework include (1) setting appropriate objectives, (2) establishing effective collaborations between scientists, volunteers and regulators to fill knowledge and funding gaps, (3) use of survey and demographics data to determine extinction risks and management requirements for species, (4) effective habitat management to overcome threats such as grazing, (5) finding potential new habitats by modelling climate and site data, (6) investigating the effectiveness of pollinators and (7) using seed baiting to detect mycorrhizal fungi. The relative cost and effectiveness of different methods used to propagate orchids for translocation are compared. Methods known to be successful, in order of complexity, include placement of seed in situ, vegetative propagation, symbiotic germination in non-sterile organic matter, symbiotic germination in sterile culture, asymbiotic sterile germination and clonal division in tissue culture. These form a continuum of complexity, cost, time required, faculties needed, as well as the capacity to maintain genetic diversity and produce seedlings preadapted to survive in situ. They all start with seed collection and lead to seed storage, living collections used as tuber banks and seed orchards, as well as translocation for conservation. They could also lead to commercial availability and sustainable ecotourism, both of which are needed to reduce pressure on wild plants. Overall, there has been a strong preference to use relatively complex, expensive and time-consuming methods for orchid conservation, despite evidence that simpler approaches have also been successful. These simpler methods, which include in situ seed placement and non-sterile germination on inorganic substrates, should be trialled in combination with more complex orchid propagation methods as part of an adaptive management framework. It is essential that orchid conservation projects harness the unique biological features of orchids, such as abundant seed production and mycorrhizal fungi which are far more widespread than their hosts. This is necessary to increase the efficiency and coverage of recovery actions for the largest and most threatened plant family.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

PublisherMDPI Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute


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