Long-term Studies Reveal Climate Adaptation Patterns of Big Sagebrush

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To understand plant genetic diversity and adaptations, scientist often conduct “common garden” experiments growing plants with diverse origins under the same soil and climatic conditions. However, most common garden studies may be too short to detect adaptive differences. Understanding climate adaptation of Wyoming Big Sagebrush could improve restoration strategies and success.

USGS and others analyzed data from a common gardens experiment initiated in 1992 with 13 different populations of Wyoming Big Sagebrush. Over 20 years were required for adaptive differences to emerge and increased survival of local populations was not statistically significant in the first ten years. Results suggest that provisional seed zones may assist in selection of restoration seeds but matching seed-source to restoration location may increase restoration success.


Germino, M.J., Moser, A.M., Sands, A.R., 2019, Adaptive variation, including local adaptation, requires decades to become evident in common gardens: Ecological Applications, online, https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1842

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Date published: November 16, 2017
Status: Active

Plant-Soil-Environment Laboratory (FRESC)

We produce basic and applied science needed to manage landscapes in ways that make them resistant and resilient to stressors such as wildfire, exotic plant invasions, drought, and temperature extremes. These stressors impact ecosystem productivity and functioning and pose costly risks to human health and safety in the western United States. We team with other state and federal agencies to find...