The genus Acacia is the most species rich vascular plant group in Australia, with over 1000 species. The genus dominates the many dry areas of the Australian continent. Quite a few of those species have conservation status in some regions of the continent mostly because they are endemic.
Some regions in Western Australia are currently the focus of extensive mining activity for iron ore. However, mineral exploration and extraction have the potential to significantly impact many narrow endemic species in the region. Government approval for such mining programs is conditional on the conservation management of rare flora therein as well as strategies for post mining ecological restoration. Rapid biodiversity assessment is an important component of this approval process Many Acacia species will be particularly impacted by mining activities. Therefore, it is critical to assess the local diversity in an effective fashion.
|Taxonomic characters:pods, flowers and leaves|
Identification of acacias often requires a combination of pods, flowers and leaves. Diagnostic taxonomic characters are often only found in reproductive material, which can be difficult to collect in dry regions where reproduction is restricted to years with sufficient rainfall. Even when reproductive material is available, morphological differences between taxa are often subtle.
A group of Australian researchers investigated sequence variation of the extant Acacia species at a mine site at plant DNA barcoding and other plastid loci, and used their findings to identify an ambiguously labelled seed collection. They tested both standard plant DNA Barcodes (matK and rbcL) and some other chloroplast regions (rpl32-trnL, psbA-trnH, trnL-F and trnK). matK was able to resolve six of the eleven study species but proved to be difficult to amplify and sequence. rbcL on the other hand was straightforward to recover and align, but species resolution was poor. As a consequence the authors recommend using both formal barcoding regions supplemented with data from other plastid regions, particularly rpl32-trnL, for DNA Barcoding Acacia.