Mix and match: regional admixture provenancing strikes a balance among different seed-sourcing strategies for ecological restoration
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One of the main questions in ecosystem restoration is where to obtain the seeds to re-establish plant communities. While the most commonly advocated approach is to use seeds from local sources, some experts argue against this because local populations may harbour little genetic variability for the restored populations to be able to adapt to and survive global change. Instead, they propose alternative strategies such as mixing seeds from various sources to increase genetic variability and adaptive potential, or using seeds from populations that have a similar climate as predicted for the target locality in the future. All these alternative seed-sourcing strategies have in common that they involve a transplanting of plant ecotypes, sometimes over large spatial scales. This is risky because plants from distant origins may be maladapted to the current local abiotic and biotic environment. In addition, introduction of non-local provenances will disrupt natural patterns of within-species biodiversity and will affect ecological networks, with unpredictable consequences. To balance the value of local adaptation with the need for future adaptation potential, we propose ‘regional admixture provenancing’ as a compromise strategy. Here seeds are sourced from multiple populations within the same region as the target locality and mixed prior to use. The mixing of seeds will increase the genetic diversity necessary for future adaptation, while restricting seed origins to a regional scale will maintain regional adaptation and reduce the risk of unintended effects on other biota. This approach is feasible in practice and has recently been implemented in Germany. We believe that it represents a compromise to reconcile opposing views on ecological restoration.
KeywordsLocal adaptation Regional adaptation Region of origin Seed mixture Seed sourcing strategy Seed transfer zone
AB thanks the Bridging Funds Program of University Tübingen for financing her stay at that institute.
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