Science-based Approach for Selecting the Right Seed for the Right Place at the Right Time

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Lesley A. DeFalco, Daniel F. Shryock, Sara J. Scoles-Sciulla, Todd C. Esque

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Large-scale environmental degradation requires science-based solutions for guiding ecological restoration. A goal of the U.S. National Seed Strategy is to provide genetically appropriate seed and improve technologies for native seed production and restoration. Ecoregions across the U.S. share approaches to meet these goals, yet challenges unique to each impose distinctly different methods. The Mojave Desert is perhaps the most challenging to restore because of myriad human-caused disturbances and the infrequent combinations of precipitation and temperature that limit natural regeneration, likely accentuated with a warming/drying climate. Through our diverse partnerships, we first identified priority plant taxa for restoring habitat for the Mojave desert tortoise – an umbrella species for the ecoregion – and summarized life-history, pollinator associations, and propagation techniques for informing seed collection, storage, and production. For select species, we use marker-based landscape genetics to delineate seed zones and provide seed transfer guidelines defining appropriate planting areas for different populations. For other species, we developed a generalized and accessible web application, Climate Distance Mapper (https://usgs-werc, which matches seed sources to restoration sites under current and future climates. As we incorporate other species, landscape genetic models increasingly illustrate that temperature gradients are key drivers of genetic variability in the ecoregion, even across contrasting growth forms. In parallel with landscape genetics, multiple common gardens are uncovering fitness costs associated with seed transfer and providing insights into the strength of locally adaptive responses. Furthermore, novel seeding and outplanting approaches using adapted plant materials are determining how seed predation and seedling herbivory can affect restoration outcomes.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program