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Selecting the provenance: Local native or nonlocal native?

Date: September 13, 2018


Mature bluebunch wheatgrass reproductive seed stalks just before dispersal. Photo by Francis Kilkenny
Mature bluebunch wheatgrass reproductive seed stalks just before dispersal. Photo by Francis Kilkenny

As the demand for seed and the global restoration effort continues to grow, choosing the provenance of seed remains an early and important part of the decision-making process for restoration practitioners. Traditionally, practitioners have sourced seed local to the restoration site, also known as local provenancing. The idea behind local provenancing is the expectation to maintain the evolutionary history of plant populations, minimize traits that are more harmful than helpful, and limit increased susceptibility or predisposition to disease.

The impacts of habitat fragmentation and climate change on plant populations calls this approach into question, asking the restoration sector if the “local-is-best” standard could be supplemented with the use of nonlocal provenancing. Currently, there are two approaches for supplementing local provenances with nonlocal provenances: attempting to increase adaptability of plants by increasing genetic diversity of the seed mix, and considering anticipated future environmental conditions of a restoration site and recommending predicative and climate-adjusted provenancing. 

Key Findings

  • The authors recommend priority actions, including embedding provenance trials into restoration projects, developing dynamic, evidence-based provenance policies, and establishing stronger research-practitioner collaborations to promote provenance choice and implement research outcomes for future restoration projects.
  • Understanding how a changing climate will impact future restoration projects is an important consideration when making decisions around provenance.

Featured Publications

Breed, Martin F. ; Harrison, Peter A. ; Bischoff, Armin ; Durruty, Paula ; Gellie, Nick J. C. ; Gonzales, Emily K. ; Havens, Kayri ; Karmann, Marion ; Kilkenny, Francis F. ; Krauss, Siegfried L. ; Lowe, Andrew J. ; Marques, Pedro ; Nevill, Paul G. ; Vitt, Pati L. ; Bucharova, Anna , 2018

Research Topics: 
Climate Change
National Strategic Program Areas: 
Inventory and Monitoring
National Priority Research Areas: 
Climate Change
RMRS Science Program Areas: 
Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
RMRS Strategic Priorities: 
Inventory & Monitoring
Principal Investigators: 
External Partners: 
Martin F. Breed, University of Adelaide; Peter A. Harrison, University of Tasmania; Armin Bischoff, University of Avignon; Paula Durruty, Instituto Forestal Nacional (INFONA); Nick J. Gellie, University of Adelaide; Emily K. Gonzales, Ecological Restoration Division at Parks Canada; Kayri Havens, University of Tasmania; Marion Karmann, Forest Stewardship Council, Bonn, Germany; Siegfried L. Krauss, Kings Park and Botanic Garden, West Perth, Western Australia; Andrew J. Lowe, University of Adelaide; Pedro Marques, Big Hole Watershed Committee, Montana; Paul G. Nevill, Curtin University; Patti L. Vitt, Chicago Botanic Garden; Anna Bucharova, Karl Eberhard University, Albert Ludwigs University
Research Location: