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Determining Genetic Limitations to Native Plant Restoration

An important goal of any reintroduction is to provide sufficient genetic variability to buffer against changing selection pressures and to ensure the long-term survival and continued evolution of a species. Genetic erosion during the creation of a reintroduced population can have a large impact on long-term success. Reintroduction of a new species involves collecting wild seeds, bulking in seed-increase beds, propagating in tubes, and sowing directly into reintroduction sites. All of these steps have the potential to create bottlenecks that diminish genetic representation. Working with two long-term restorations, Cirsium pitcheri in Illinois Beach State Park and Castilleja levisecta in western Oregon and Washington, we hope to determine if there are any potential bottlenecks in the nursery propagation process where genetic diversity is being lost or certain seed sources are favored that then predominate in reintroduction sites. We have also recently initiated collaboration with Eroymson Restoration at Kankakee Sands to develop a protocol to produce genetically diverse and ecologically appropriate seeds of vulnerable species for restoration. Vulnerable species are often excluded from restoration seed mixes, as few populations are large enough to sustain seed harvest. Using an integrated approach, we are attempting to determine the best methods for increasing seed production to increase their usage (Basey, White, Fant, and Kramer).

Cirsium pitcheri