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The Right Seed At The Right Place

Date: May 11, 2017

Testing the efficacy of seed zones for restoring bluebunch wheatgrass populations that are adapted to local environmental and climatic conditions


Background

Native plant community restoration is a vital tool for preserving and maintaining diverse ecosystems that support wildlife and provide ecosystem functions essential to healthy human communities. The success of restoration projects depends on using plant materials that are adapted to local environmental and climatic conditions. Seed transfer guidelines and seed zones help land managers in selecting the right seed for the right place.

Research

Research Ecologist Francis Kilkenny weeding in the rain to reduce competition at the Quinn River bluebunch wheatgrass reciprocal transplant site, Spring 2016. Photo by Jessica Irwin, RMRS
Research Ecologist Francis Kilkenny weeding in the rain to reduce competition at the Quinn River bluebunch wheatgrass reciprocal transplant site, Spring 2016. Photo by Jessica Irwin, RMRS
Researchers at the Rocky Mountain Research Station and the Pacific Northwest Research Station developed seed zones for bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), a keystone bunchgrass species in sage-steppe ecosystems - an important restoration species, using a common garden approach. The researchers are now testing the efficacy of bluebunch seed zones with a large reciprocal transplant study, by planting over 20,000 bluebunch plugs at fifteen sites across four states (Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) that represent the full range of climates that bluebunch experiences. Sites have been monitored for two years, and will be monitored for a third. Traits related to growth, phenology, physiology, survival, and reproduction are being measured to determine how bluebunch populations are adapted to environmental and climatic conditions across their range. Early results have shown that local populations at a garden site have higher growth and reproduction than populations that are not local to that site. This indicates that the use of local varieties is adapted to specific environmental and climatic conditions. This information will help to increase restoration success.

Bluebunch seed zones are available at: www.fs.fed.us/wwetac/threat_map/S_Zones_11April2011_JS_WTM.html.

Findings

  • Seed zones were developed for bluebunch wheatgrass to show where different varieties are likely to be successfully planted 
  • The efficacy of these seed zones is being tested with a large scale reciprocal transplant experiment
  • Preliminary data suggests that bluebunch wheatgrass populations are adapted to specific environmental and climatic conditions
  • Seed zones are an effective way to predict successful restoration of bluebunch wheatgrass

Additional Publications

Koch, Geoff; St. Clair, Brad; Erickson, Vicky. 2015. No place like home: using seed zones to improve restoration of native grasses in the WestScience Findings. 6p. 

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Principal Investigators: 
Principal Investigators - External: 
J. Bradley St. Clair - Pacific Northwest Research Station
Forest Service Partners: 
Holly Prendeville; Pacific Northwest Research Station
Jeffrey E. Ott, Jessical Irwin; Rocky Mountain Research Station
External Partners: 
Fred Edwards, BLM