Submitted to: American Association for the Advancement of Science Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: January 3, 2003
Publication Date: February 3, 2003
Citation: Vogel, K.P. 2003. Resolving the issues in re-vegetating the west with science. p.A38 in Annual Meeting Abstracts [DC-ROM]. AAAS, Washington, DC. Technical Abstract: Controversies exist on the plant resources that should be used to re-vegetate burned and degraded land areas in the USA. An issue is the use of local collections of native plants or synthesized cultivars and populations. Widely-held presumptions include: local ecotypes are the best germplasm for re-vegetating land areas because they were naturally selected in the area of use; local strains have more genetic variability than cultivars or synthesized populations; and they may persist and stabilize sites longer because of these attributes. Local ecotypes are usually never evaluated in research trials. It is recognized that seed of local ecotypes is usually limited in supply, very expensive, and may be of low quality. Cultivars of native species have known origin and may be genetically narrow or broad; they can be certified via seed certification agencies (a truth-in-labeling practice); knowledge exists on producing seed and establishment; comparative biomass yield and survival test information is available; area of adaptation is known; and seed is usually less expensive and of higher quality than local ecotype seed. Even though research information is not available on almost all local ecotypes; the presumption that local ecotypes are the best adapted because of natural selection is so widely and strongly held that many state and federal government agencies have policies requiring the use of local ecotypes if seed is available. This presumption is equivalent to an un-validated folklore medical treatment. Research in the tallgrass prairie ecoregion with germplasm collections of four of the major native grass species demonstrated that local ecotypes are often not the best adapted as measured by biomass yield and that cultivars or synthetic populations are more widely adapted and fit. Research from other published studies provides evidence that local ecotypes in other ecoregions may have restricted genetic variation likely due to the effects of the evolutionary processes of migration, genetic drift, and selection. Local ecotypes are currently adapted to their sites but may not be as well adapted in the future to those sites because of climate change as composite populations from broader geographic areas. The presumption that local ecotypes are the best material for use in re-vegetation is in fact ecological folklore and should not be the basis for policy decisions. Policy should be based on science. Additional research is need on the use of native plants in re-vegetation.