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Scientists conserve the seeds of today to propagate the best adapted plants of tomorrow

Date: October 13, 2016

Project assists with restoring damaged grasslands, shrublands, and deserts

Sulphur-flower buckwheat seed.
Sulphur-flower buckwheat seed.
Faced with extensive disturbances and climatological challenges that are rapidly changing ecosystems, scientists and land managers require the seeds of today to provide the plants of tomorrow. Researchers are currently studying more than 50 plant species in order to select best adapted plants to current and future climate conditions.

Forest Service scientists, in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management's Seeds of Success Program, are providing the resources necessary to restore damaged grasslands, shrublands, and deserts—especially in the sagebrush ecosystem. For commonly used restoration species, goals of the program are to ensure genetically diverse, regionally adapted plants, especially forbs, for re-establishing degraded landscapes, and that sufficient knowledge and technology is available to plant self-sustaining native communities on disturbed sagebrush rangelands.

Researchers evaluate each plant's likely contribution to improving habitat for more than 300 common and rare plant and animal species that depend on the sagebrush ecosystem. Along with cooperators, researchers have collected native grass and forb seed at more than 2,000 sites during the past 10 years. In addition to using the seed collections for research, when collection size permits, the researchers provide 10,000 seeds to the Seeds of Success program for deposit in the Agricultural Research Service National Plant Germplasm System along with site details, photographs, and herbarium specimens.

Preserving seeds has inherent value in the retention of the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) of native plants that are at a risk of loss because of ongoing disturbances and provides a library of plants' genetic material. This effort makes a variety of seeds available to sustain seed supplies for restoration on future landscapes.

Principal Investigators: 
External Partners: 
Bureau of Land Management, Washington, DC
Bureau of Land Management, Boise, ID
USDA Agricultural Research Service, Pullman, WA