Despite the growing number of scientists, federal and state agencies, private citizens, and non-profit organizations working to restore damaged ecosystems in the Great Basin, intact native plant communities continue to decline.
The shift away from native-perennial to invasive annual-grass dominated systems has reduced biodiversity, increased wildfire severity and frequency, and has expedited desertification.
To combat this ecosystem overhaul, the most up-to-date and relevant science must be used to guide the restoration of Great Basin plant communities. Improving native plant establishment rates in the restoration setting is one of the biggest challenges faced by land managers.
Bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) is a commonly used native species in restoration but seedling establishment is modest. The goal of our study is to fill knowledge gaps surrounding seedling adaptation to climate and soils and to provide seed producers with zone specific harvest recommendations.
1) Bluebunch wheatgrass is adapted to differing soil conditions
2)Through the process of selection, early plant traits such as root-to-shoot ratio, stomatal density, and leaf length have evolved in response to local climate.
3) The timing and duration of the seed production in bluebunch wheatgrass varies with climate and population.
We will complete four studies. The soils study will utilize existing phenotypic trait data and soils maps to explore links between soil order, soil series, plant traits, seed zones, and ecoregions. We predict that phenotypic trait divergence will be correlated to soil gradients that exist across seed zones.
The seedling study will relate phenotypic trait variability in twenty-four bluebunch wheatgrass populations to existing seed zones. We predict that seed zones will account for the observed variability in these traits.
The stomate study will compare population stomatal density to aridity. We predict that there is a negative correlation between stomatal density and aridity.
Lastly, we will examine seed production phenology at a common garden near the Crooked River Grasslands. We predict that both the timing and duration of the seed production in bluebunch wheatgrass will vary with climate and seed zone.
Information obtained from this work will either support current seed zones for bluebunch wheatgrass or create better seed zones, and help land managers to achieve higher success rates in restoration.