Guiding restoration decision-making with modern, robust, and usable genetic information

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Daniel E. Winkler, Matthew R. Jones, Rob Massatti

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Government agencies worldwide have joined major restoration initiatives including the recent UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, the largest-ever intergovernmental effort focused on restoring lands degraded by human activity. Although these efforts are challenged by climate change, socioeconomic inequality, ethical questions, etc., in the context of native plant restoration they are also challenged by limited understanding of effective ways to source and translocate genetically appropriate restoration materials, as well as the effects of restoration on biodiversity. Here, we present recent work from the Genetics for Western Restoration and Conservation (GWRC) research group, with the aim of guiding manager and practitioner decisions about where to source seeds for native plant materials development and wildland restoration, while simultaneously providing insightful information into the evolutionary histories and adaptations of common, workhorse restoration species. To inform genetically based restoration decisions, we present POPMAPS (Population Management using Ancestry Probability Surfaces), a novel method to delineate population boundaries across species’ ranges by combining empirical genetic and geospatial data. Last, we discuss some of the inevitable limitations of sampling designs and challenges inherent in biological processes that vary across and even within species, as well as ways to adjust restoration strategies and goals to meet current and future needs.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program