Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

A recruitment niche framework for improving seed-based restoration

July 12, 2023

As larger tracts of land experience degradation, seed-based restoration (SBR) will be a primary tool to reestablish vegetation and ecosystem function. SBR has advanced in terms of technical and technological approaches, yet plant recruitment remains a major barrier in some systems, notably drylands. There is an unmet opportunity to test science-based approaches to seed mix design and application, based not only on diversity or local provenance, but on the unique recruitment strategies of species. We lay out a framework that uses a quantitative representation of species' recruitment niches to match them to targeted goals (e.g. drought or invasion resistance) and methods (e.g. precision tools and technologies) in SBR. We first describe how to quantify the recruitment niche with seed and seedling traits tied to observed recruitment responses to environmental factors. We then show how a quantified recruitment niche framework can serve as the foundation to address three major restoration challenges: (1) designing forward-looking seed mixes that increase resilience to future climate and disturbance, (2) accounting for natural recovery in SBR planning, and (3) applying precision seeding practices to maximize restoration success. Finally, we demonstrate these ideas with existing data and discuss key challenges to adoption in SBR practice. While the ideas in this framework are based in ecological theory, they will require substantial testing and refinement by scientists engaged in SBR efforts. If this framework is integrated into research agendas, we believe it has the potential to unify and advance diverse elements of seed-based restoration ecology and improve restoration outcomes.

Publication Year 2023
Title A recruitment niche framework for improving seed-based restoration
DOI 10.1111/rec.13959
Authors Julie E. Larson, A. C. Agneray, Chad S. Boyd, John B. Bradford, O. A. Kildisheva, Katharine N. Suding, Stella M. Copeland
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Restoration Ecology
Index ID 70247002
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center