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Alison C. Agneray, Thomas L. Parchman, Elizabeth A. Leger
Local adaptation is common in natural populations, and trait/environment relationships can be used to select appropriate seed materials for restoration projects. Further, describing plant traits adaptive in disturbed and invaded environments can optimize seed source selection for restoration. We collected seeds from common forbs, grasses, and shrubs from 16-24 locations with similar abiotic conditions. We then planted seeds in multiple common gardens, including three highly invaded field sites and in a greenhouse setting, measuring survival in restoration scenarios and seedling characteristics in the greenhouse, including seed size, emergence timing, and root length. We asked whether similar trait/environment relationships have evolved for multiple species in the same geographic location and which potentially adaptive traits were predictive of survival. Seed provenance significantly impacted success in competitive restoration settings, and all species showed trait/environment relationships consistent with local adaptation. Both environment of origin and phenotypic traits predicted success in competitive environments, with generally greater predictability from environmental factors. Trait/environment relationships varied among species with notable commonalities: for almost all taxa, seed weight, days to emergence, and root mass were associated with the environments of origin and restoration success. Several collection locations had plants with high survival rates across taxa, suggesting that site conditions can select favorable restoration traits across the entire plant community. The results of this work provide a trait-based approach for selecting seed sources for restoration and demonstrate that some locations might contain populations of above-average performance across multiple taxa, which could be used to better select seed sources for restoration.
Conference Presentation, SER2021
Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program