Sourcing plants for conservation and restoration: developing a risk assessment framework

Science Center Objects

Tallgrass prairie species are planted in a variety of settings for a variety of reasons. Much of the seed used for these plantings is produced commercially in agricultural-like conditions and can be contaminated by “weed seeds.” In this study, we are creating an analytical tool to assess the risk of inadvertently introducing weed seeds into a prairie planting. We purpose that increasing the distance between the production location and the planting site increases the risk of introducing a new weed species to a landscape. However, increasing that distance also makes obtaining enough seed to create high quality plantings more feasible. Our tool will balance these two factors, weed risk and seed availability, and provide evidence-based guidance to land managers making seed sourcing choices. We anticipate that our analytical framework will be broadly applicable to conservation concerns in tallgrass prairies. For example, we hope to use it to determine if the balance between weed risk and seed availability will change if managers adopt sourcing strategies that attempt to anticipate climate change (e.g., sourcing seed from further south).