Location: Forage and Range ResearchTitle: Native seeds in the marketplace: meeting restoration needs in the Intermountain West, United States
Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/30/2019
Publication Date: 11/1/2019
Citation: Jones, T.A. 2019. Native seeds in the marketplace: meeting restoration needs in the Intermountain West, United States. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 72(6):1017-1029. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2019.07.009.
Interpretive Summary: Ecological restoration is gaining momentum throughout the world as extensive damaged lands are prioritized for repair. However, broadscale restoration requires copious quantities of seeds of native species to be implemented. The Intermountain Region of the western United States conducts restoration on a massive scale of weed-infested wildfire-prone lands damaged by past and continuing disturbances. Because of the resultant demand for native seeds, a native seed industry that is likely the largest of its kind in the world has developed over the past several decades to supply this need. This industry is served by a federal research sector that develops more effective plant materials. Seed of herbaceous species is produced mostly in cultivated fields, while that of shrubs is harvested in the wild. This industry and the practices and policies that support it potentially serve as a model for other parts of the world that lack the physical infrastructure and intellectual resources in place here.
Technical Abstract: Today, the scale of ecological restoration in the Intermountain West (IW), USA is likely greater than anywhere else in the world, largely driven by accelerating ecological disturbances on public lands. Additional drivers of restoration include government programs that divert privately owned cropland into soil, water, and wildlife conservation use for periods of at least a decade; reclamation of sites disturbed for energy and mineral extraction; and ongoing seeding of new and rebuilt transportation corridors. While restoration in the IW is challenging due to the region's aridity, annual invasive weed populations, and recurring weed-fueled wildfires, over the last few decades, considerable improvement in restoration seeding success has been achieved using native plants instead of the exotic species that had been used previously. The IW is blessed with a historic and enduring scientific infrastructure for native plant material development. In addition, an innovative and diverse commercial native-seed industry produces large quantities of seeds of these plant materials under cultivation, as well as collects shrub seeds on public wildlands. The IW model also encompasses the federal regulation of seed to ensure it is sold as labelled for germination, purity, and weed-seed content and the verification of its genetic identity through certification by a state seed-certifing agency. The practice of ecological restoration in the IW should not be considered a template for broadscale restoration in other regions of the world, as specific circumstances that necessitate restoration and infrastructure and resources available for its implementation vary. However, elements of restoration practice in the IW may prove to be instructive for the development of broadscale-restoration models that are appropriate for other regions.