Seed source has variable effects on species, communities, and ecosystem properties in grassland restorations

TitleSeed source has variable effects on species, communities, and ecosystem properties in grassland restorations
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCarter, DL, Blair, JM
Pagination93 -
Accession NumberKNZ001597
Keywordscommon garden, community structure, dispersal, genetic diversity, local adaptation, managed relocationplant, productivity, provenance, restoration, seed transfer zone, tallgrass

Research to date regarding the relative advantages of local versus non-local sources of plantmaterial for restoration has produced equivocal results. This research has typically focused on theperformance of individual species at individual locations and without addressing higher order communityand ecosystem properties. We investigated the effects of seed source (local, non-local, and mixed-sourcetreatments) on species, community, and ecosystem properties under a range of environmental conditionsusing reciprocal common gardens at locations in three states (Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma). In orderto mimic the restoration of grassland vegetation under realistic conditions where multiple species interactwith one another during establishment, we seeded twelve species together between December, 2009 andJanuary, 2010, and assessed responses in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Both common garden location and seedsource affected the establishment of individual species (measured as species-specific biomass), butresponses were not consistent among species. No seed source had a consistent advantage across all sites oracross all species. In a few cases, the local source was most productive for a particular species at onelocation, but no species showed a consistent local advantage across locations or years. Rather, in two out ofthree species that exhibited a local advantage at one location, the same source was also the most productiveat a non-local site. Community structure and species richness differed among locations in all years, butsource did not significantly affect seeded species richness, and source only affected community structure in2011. Despite source effects on individual species and community structure, seed source had no significanteffects on the combined productivity of seeded species. These results do not support the targeted use oflocal sources when the establishment of sown species and primary productivity are restoration objectives.Using mixed-source species mixtures may increase chances of restoration success, given the idiosyncrasy ofindividual species’ responses among locations and potential site-specific environmental changes likely tooccur in the future.