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Forb common garden study to inform seed transfer guidance for restoration

Status: 
Action
Dates: 
February, 2018 to October, 2022

Three focal species were selected based on their value as resources for wildlife and for restoring ecosystem function (Photo credit: Paul Slichter)
Three focal species were selected based on their value as resources for wildlife and for restoring ecosystem function (Photo credit: Paul Slichter)
Landscape-scale disturbances are increasing in size and frequency across public lands. Understanding how to restore plant communities and ecosystem function to these areas is of critical importance. Ecological studies have demonstrated a positive relationship between plant diversity and ecosystem function. This research will provide tools to help practitioners successfully incorporate forbs into their restoration seed mixes as a way to increase plant diversity after disturbance.

Approach

  1. Map of populations-Seeds and genetic samples were collected from more than 80 populations for each species across their ranges
    Map of populations-Seeds and genetic samples were collected from more than 80 populations for each species across their ranges
    Focal species were selected because of their value as forage and cover resources for wildlife (e.g. sage grouse and pollinators). Species include: Chaenactis douglasii, Crepis acuminata, and Machaeranthera canescens.
  2. Seeds and leaf tissue were collected from many populations across the range of each species, highlighting the breadth of environments where these plants can grow
  3. Common garden sites were selected based on their ability to provide climatically unique conditions
  4. Trait measurements will be collected for plug-planted mature individuals starting in the spring of 2020 and will include a variety of fitness-related traits. Germination plots will help us understand population demography and variation in early life history traits. Tissue samples will be used to examine population genetics.
  5. This large-scale project requires many partners to provide seed collections, land use, and monitoring, including: U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Great Basin Native Plant Project, U.S. Forest Service - Rocky Mountain Research Station, Seeds of Success, University of Nevada – Reno, Great Basin Institute, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chicago Botanical Garden, Utah State University, U.S. Forest Service – Intermountain Region, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition.
  6. This project will result in tools for restoration practitioners and multiple research publications from RMRS and academic partners, covering topics related to local adaptation, phenotypic plasticity, species interactions, and microbiome work
    Map of common gardens-Common gardens will be installed at eight sites in four states (NV, ID, OR, UT) at climatically unique locations
    Map of common gardens-Common gardens will be installed at eight sites in four states (NV, ID, OR, UT) at climatically unique locations

Key Findings

Preliminary researcher observations at the greenhouse facility are already documenting differences in growth form within and across populations of the focal species. More specifically, some individuals within populations are bolting and flowering early, while others are producing basal rosettes and are not producing flowers in their first year. These different strategies occur in different proportions across the populations.

Example of seed transfer map-Products will include a spatially explicit restoration tool and multiple research publications (image of seed transfer zones for Pseudoroegneria spicata (bluebunch wheatgrass) from St. Clair et al. 2013)
Example of seed transfer map-Products will include a spatially explicit restoration tool and multiple research publications (image of seed transfer zones for Pseudoroegneria spicata (bluebunch wheatgrass) from St. Clair et al. 2013)

Other

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the spring of 2020, we will begin collecting trait measurements for the plug-planted individuals. We will also start the seed germination portion of the experiment, which will help identify variation in early life history traits and could lead to demographic models for these species. Academic cooperators will also begin their unique experiments regarding species interactions and plant microbiomes, which will eventually be linked to the results from the common gardens and the population genetics analysis.



Project Contact: 

Principal Investigators:
Co-Investigators:
John Proctor - USFS Intermountain Region
Fred Edwards - USDI Bureau of Land Management-Nevada
Sarah Kulpa - USDI Fish and Wildlife Service-Nevada
Dirk Netz - USFS Humboldt-Toiyabe

Collaborators:
Jay Kerby - The Nature Conservancy
Betsy McFarlan - Eastern Nevada Lands Coalition
Rob Masatti - USGS Southwest Biological Science Center
Rose Lehman - Caribou-Targhee National Forest
Beth Leger - University of Nevada-Reno
Karen Mock - Utah State University

Research Staff:
Kimberly Stocks - USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station
Michael Ottenlips - USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station

Funding Contributors:
USFS Intermountain Region
USFS - Washington Office
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Great Basin Native Plant Project
Bureau of Land Management