New publication – Restoration of plant species and genetic diversity depends on landscape-scale dispersal

Text and pics by Tsipe Aavik

In the era of ongoing global change, restoration efforts must lead to self-sustainable ecosystems resilient to environmental changes. Thus, it is necessary that restoration aims at achieving not only target species richness and composition, but also high genetic diversity of plant populations. Nevertheless, species- and gene-level biodiversity are rarely examined together in the context of restoration, although high genetic diversity of plant populations is a fundamental factor ensuring long-term success of restoration.

AavikHelm_Fig2

Restored alvar of Üügu, on the northern coast of Muhu island, Western Estonia

Landscape-scale dispersal is a crucial process linked to the recovery of vegetation and maintaining both species and genetic diversity. The paper reviews the linkages between landscape-scale dispersal of plants and the recovery of species richness and genetic diversity of plants following habitat restoration. In addition to the availability of species pools constituting of genetically diverse plant populations, the recovery of landscape-scale dispersal depends on ensuring high structural connectivity between habitats. Furthermore, because many plant species require biotic vectors for effective dispersal, generating favourable conditions for the movement of seed and pollen vectors is a crucial step in fostering functional connectivity. Due to the significance of landscape-scale dispersal for long-term restoration success, we argue that monitoring functional connectivity, i.e. dispersal of seeds and pollen, should be an essential part in monitoring frameworks. In particular, tools of the evolving discipline of landscape genetics have a high potential to inform about landscape-scale dispersal following restoration. Nevertheless, when evaluating landscape-scale dispersal, it is important to consider potential time lags in the response of species and genetic patterns to habitat fragmentation as well as to restoration. We suggest that assessing the consequences of restoration for functional connectivity does not only provide indication about restoration success, but can deliver valuable empirical evidence for improving the theory of plant dispersal.

 

Citation: Aavik, T., & Helm, A. (2017). Restoration of plant species and genetic diversity depends on landscape‐scale dispersal. Restoration Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/rec.12634 (link to full text)

AavikHelm_Fig1

Guidelines for improving landscape-scale dispersal during habitat restoration. The graph provides an overview of alternative steps that need to be taken to maximize landscape-scale dispersal during restoration, depending on the context of the landscape, where habitats will be restored. Answering “Yes” to any question does not necessarily indicate that choices from the other path should not be considered, e.g. even in landscapes with relatively good structural connectivity, rotational grazing or improvement of conditions for the movement of pollinators may be strongly recommended. (Fig 1 from the paper)

Abstract:

In the era of ongoing global change, it is highly important that restoration efforts lead to functioning, self-sustainable ecosystems that are resilient to disturbance and resistant to environmental changes. Therefore, it is necessary that restoration aims at achieving high genetic diversity of plant populations in addition to the recovery of characteristic species composition and diversity. Nevertheless, species- and gene-level biodiversity are rarely examined together in the context of restoration, although high genetic diversity of plant populations is a fundamental factor ensuring long-term success of restoration. Landscape-scale dispersal is the key process linked to the recovery of vegetation and maintaining both species and genetic diversity following restoration. In fragmented landscapes, dispersal of seeds and genetic material is often disrupted, leading to failure in spontaneous recovery of species richness as well as in establishment and maintenance of genetically diverse populations. Here, we review the linkages between landscape-scale dispersal of plants and the recovery of species richness and genetic diversity of plants during habitat restoration. We propose recommendations for restoration planners and practitioners to consider while aiming to restore self-sustainable ecosystems with high species- and gene-level biodiversity.

Implications for Practice

  • Both species and genetic diversity should be considered during restoration.
  • Recent advances in molecular tools allow employing genetic information for setting restoration goals, selecting appropriate restoration methods, and monitoring restoration success.
  • Landscape scale (covering several km2) needs to be taken into account for ensuring development of high plant species richness, characteristic species composition, and high genetic diversity following the restoration.
  • Availability of species pool, the presence of genetically diverse populations, and landscape functional connectivity determine the outcome of restoration during spontaneous succession.
  • Active restoration measures need to be applied in landscape-scale restoration when species pool is impoverished and genetic diversity of populations is low.

 

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One Response to New publication – Restoration of plant species and genetic diversity depends on landscape-scale dispersal

  1. Pingback: Blogyear summary 2017 | EcolChange

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