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U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA Forest Service Southern Regional Extension Forestry Southern Regional Extension Forestry

Establishing restoration seed reserves in national forest system seed orchards

Our basic concept is to establish seedling seed orchards that can produce seed with sufficient genetic diversity to impart to restored populations an ability to adapt to rapidly changing environments. When properly designed, the seed product from these “restoration seed reserves” (RSRs) should improve the resiliency of restored populations enough to avert extinction or extirpation of priority species in southern national forests. This model does not involve traditional genetic improvement, but rather involves enhancing adaptive potential of deployed germplasm. Although traditional tree improvement has long sought to maintain genetic diversity while improving marketable traits for a few commercial species, we are advising something different by developing a program for the genetic management of broader range species that have ecological value. Therefore, RSRs should rely not on artificial selection for specific traits or genotypes, but on managing gene flow among populations to increase their adaptive genetic diversity (Kramer and Havens 2009). A guiding principle in restoration plans that use seed from these RSRs will be to let natural selection do the heavy lifting and produce well-adapted tree populations. The supporting mission of RSRs, therefore, will be to supply “restoration ready”, high quality, and genetically diverse seed for imperilled species management.

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Author(s): Craig S. Echt, Barbara S. Crane, C. Dana Nelson