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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVED PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES FOR PASTURES AND RANGELANDS IN THE TEMPERATE SEMIARID REGIONS OF THE WESTERN U.S. Title: Plant materials for novel ecosystems

Author
item Jones, Thomas

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: March 15, 2012
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Citation: Jones, T.A. 2013. Plant materials for novel ecosystems. In: Hobbs, N.E, Higgs, E.S, Hall, C.M. editors. Novel Ecosystems: Intervening in the New Ecological World Order. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell Press. p.212-227.

Technical Abstract: The preservationist approach to restoration plant materials has 'local' as its centerpiece, emphasizing taxonomic and genetic patterns (in space). This view can be seen to be at odds with an alternative interventionist point of view that emphasizes the 'processes' (across time) of ecosystem function. While the preservationist approach is valid prior to the point where ecological function has been compromised, it is possibly less appropriate following the crossing of biotic and abiotic thresholds. The professional divide between preservationists and interventionists remain huge and shows few signs of shrinking in the near term. Nevertheless, individual conservation biologists have begun to advocate for a more flexible approach to biodiversity as a matter of triage or last resort. The balance-of-nature paradigm, once widely accepted, has long been replaced by a contrasting paradigm that emphasizes random and stochastic forces and multiple alternative states. Yet, over 20 years later, the idea of ecological balance remains engrained, and it has been argued that non-local genotypes are not sustainable as part of a restoration strategy. Following this logic, however, if an environment has become novel, then local genotypes must be unsustainable. With this in mind, I propose "local has value" as a plant materials paradigm for novel ecosystems, as a counterpart to "local is best" for systems in which ecosystem function is relatively unaltered. For novel ecosystems, 'genetically appropriate' loses a portion of its relevance, but the ecology of adaptation and fitness becomes more important than ever. For this reason, for novel ecosystems, I suggest emphasizing 'ecologically appropriate' rather than 'genetically appropriate' plant materials.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014
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