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Genetic diversity of prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha)

Status: 
Action
Dates: 
January, 2001 to January, 2019

Background

Prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha) is often used in seed mixes for restoration of native prairie, savanna, coastal scrub, chaparral and open forest habitats across much of North America. Good drought tolerance and fibrous roots also make this species beneficial for revegetation and erosion control on mined lands, over septic systems, in construction areas, on burned sites, and in other disturbed areas.

There is a need for greater genetic knowledge of prairie junegrass to ensure adapted populations are used for restoration and revegetation projects. This study provides:

(1) seed zones and seed transfer guidelines for developing adapted plant materials of prairie junegrass for revegetation and restoration in the Great Basin and adjacent areas and

(2) guidelines for conservation of germplasm within the National Plant Germplasm System.

Most information will be generated from two common garden studies conducted on separate and contrasting environments in Oregon.

Project Objectives

Prairie junegrass is often used in seed mixes for restoration and rehabilitation (photo by J. Lokemon, U.S. Geological Survey).
Prairie junegrass is often used in seed mixes for restoration and rehabilitation (photo by J. Lokemon, U.S. Geological Survey).
1) Use common gardens to determine the magnitude and patterns of genetic variation among prairie junegrass populations from a wide range of source environments in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

2) Relate genetic variation to environmental variation at collection locations.

3) Develop seed transfer guidelines.

Approach

Seed was collected from endemic stands of prairie junegrass during the summers of 2003 to 2006. Populations came from Oregon, Washington, and adjacent areas of Idaho, primarily east of the Cascade Mountains. Two families (maternal parents) were sampled from each of 114 populations, while only a single family was sampled from 12 populations, for a total of 240 families from 126 populations.

Common garden studies were established in 2008 at two contrasting sites in Oregon: the USDA Natural Resources Conservation, Plant Materials Center in Corvallis, Oregon, and Oregon State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station at Powell Butte, Oregon. A variety of traits were measured in 2009 and 2010 to assess plant growth, morphology, phenology, and fecundity.

Scientists conducted analyses to evaluate differences among test sites, years, populations, families within populations, and interactions between these factors. Analyses have also investigated the relationship between population variation and climatic variation at source locations. Maps of genetic variation across the landscape have been produced, and preliminary seed zones have been delineated based on the results.

Key Findings

These studies indicate that populations of prairie junegrass differ greatly across the landscapes of the Great Basin, Columbia Basin, Blue Mountains, and adjacent ecoregions for traits of plant size, flowering phenology, and leaf width. Much of the variation in prairie junegrass is associated with climates of the source locations, indicating adaptive significance.

Scientists prepared seed zones for prairie junegrass for recommendations of bulking seed collections and producing plant material for adapted, diverse, and sustainable populations for revegetation and restoration. Different levels of acceptable risk may be accommodated by choosing whether or not to use bulk materials from the same zones but in different Level III ecoregions. Results indicate that sources may be consolidated over fairly broad areas of similar climate, and thus may be shared between districts, forests, and different ownerships.

Seed zones in Washington state for prairie junegrass.
Seed zones in Washington state for prairie junegrass.

Publications

Kilkenny, Francis F. ; St. Clair, Brad ; Horning, Matt , 2013

Other

Publications in Preparation

  • Kilkenny, F. F.; St. Clair, J. B.; Darris, D.; Horning, M.; Erickson. V. [In preparation]. Genecology of prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha). Evolutionary Applications.

Presentations

  • Kilkenny, F.F.; 2015. Seed zones and climate change. Great Basin Fires Science Exchange, 2015 Webinar Series; 2015 May 20th.

  • Kilkenny, F.F. 2015. Predicting the effects of climate change on bunchgrass populations using common garden studies. 3rd National Native Seed Conference; 2015 April 13-16; Santa Fe, NM.

  • Kilkenny, F.F. 2014. Characterization of current and future climates within and among seed zones to evaluate options for adapting to climate change. Society for Ecological Restoration, Northwest and Great Basin Chapters, Joint Regional Conference; 2014 October 6-10; Redmond, OR.

  • Kilkenny, F.F. 2013. Seed zones. Restoration and reforestation technical exchange study tour; USFS Lucky Peak Nursery, Boise, ID; 2013 September 9. USAID sponsored tour for Ecuadoran government officials.

  • Kilkenny, F.F.; St. Clair, J.B.; Horning, M.; Johnson, R.C.; Leger, E.; and Shaw, N. 2013. Genecology of three native bunchgrasses: implications for management during climate change. Intermountain Native Plant Summit; 2013 March 26-27; Boise, ID.

  • Kilkenny, F.F.; and St. Clair, J.B. 2013. Characterization of current and future climates within and among seed zones to evaluate options for adapting to climate change. 2nd National Native Seed Conference; 2013 April 8-11; Santa Fe, NM.

  • Kilkenny, F.F.; St. Clair, J.B.; Horning, M.; Johnson, R.C.; Leger, E.; and Shaw, N. 2013. Genecology and seed zones for prairie junegrass and bottlebrush squireltail. 2nd National Native Seed Conference; 2013 April 8-11; Santa Fe, NM.

  • Kilkenny, F.F.; St. Clair, J.B.; Shaw, N.; Richardson, B. 2013. Efficiency of using species-specific seed zones for re-establishment of native bunchgrass populations after fire. Poster presented at the 2nd National Native Seed Conference; 2013 April 8-11; Santa Fe, NM.



Project Contact: 

Principal Investigators:
Brad St. Clair - USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station

Collaborators:
Bureau of Land Management
National Park Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Department of Defense
The Nature Conservancy
Washington Department of Natural Resources

Funding Contributors:
The Great Basin Native Plant Project