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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

The complexities behind restoration and reforestation efforts

Photo of Measuring gas exchange on an establishing seedling.Measuring gas exchange on an establishing seedling.Snapshot : Restoration and reforestation using nursery-produced seedlings can be an effective means of accelerating the recovery trajectory of disturbed ecosystems. Unfortunately, in many ecosystems of the world, seasonal changes as well as changing climate can create dry conditions that are not favorable to seedling establishment.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Pinto, Jeremiah R. Dumroese, Kasten
Research Location : Idaho; Hawaii
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1382


The Target Plant Concept is a holistic approach to native plant restoration and reforestation. It outlines a framework of inter-related ideas that ensure the right plant material is put in the right place at the right time. Quantifying and mitigating the factors most limiting to seedling establishment is critical. In most cases, soil moisture is the most limiting factor. The research examine how soil moisture dynamics can change over dry periods and what the subsequent physiological responses of planted seedlings might entail. The research shows that site preparation, appropriate stock type selection, and planting timing, can mitigate the changes in soil moisture and increase the likelihood of seedlings establishing themselves in the landscape. In some cases, these factorscan mean a significant boost in growth, in other cases, they can mean the difference between survival or mortality. Using a one-size-fits-most approach to accomplishing revegetation projects is becoming increasingly hard to justify. Understanding the synchronicity of these relationships is increasingly important as restoration and reforestation goals are undertaken in highly disturbed ecosystems and in changing climates. Understanding the interaction of seedling physiology, plant and soil biophysics, and the edaphic [of the, produced by, or influenced by the soil] environment contribute to the design of target seedling attributes to mitigate dry planting conditions and facilitate successful seedling establishment. These findings and concepts give managers footholds to generate informed decisions and justifications regarding plant materials, site preparation, and timing of planting windows.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Oregon State University
  • University of Hawaii

Program Areas