The relative performance of restoration mixes that differ in evolutionary history

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Elizabeth A. Leger, Alison C. Agneray, Matthew L. Forister, Thomas L. Parchman

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Restoration mixes are often comprised of haphazard collections of species sourced from disparate locations, resulting in communities differing in collection and increase methodology along with environment of origin. We asked if restoration outcomes are more successful when communities are founded with collections sharing an evolutionary history (sympatric) or if novel associations of species from different locations (allopatric) can be effective restoration mixes. Using 6 shrubs, grasses, and forb species, we compared establishment, productivity, and resistance to invaders for sympatric and allopatric communities. Each community type was planted into outdoor field containers and measured over three growing seasons, invading the communities with Bromus tectorum in their final season. Species and populations differed in every characteristic measured, and the variation in phenology and biomass among populations was as great as variation among species. There were no overall differences in allopatric or sympatric communities, but there were significant population x community type interactions. It was beneficial for species from some locations to be planted with allopatric neighbors, while others benefited from being planted with sympatric neighbors, with the greatest differences in the establishment year. Bromus tectorum biomass was negatively affected by plant age: plants that established early grew the largest and had the most suppressive effect. Our results demonstrate community composition does affect plant performance, but simply collecting sympatric communities is not sufficient to ensure high ecosystem services. We are now conducting an ongoing experiment to learn how to efficiently combine seed sources to maximize community performance based on performance and phenotypic traits.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program