COS 46-10
Integrating recent advances in genetic diversity-ecosystem function research to improve ecological restoration

Tuesday, August 6, 2013: 4:20 PM
L100J, Minneapolis Convention Center
Karin M. Kettenring, Watershed Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, UT
Kristin L. Mercer, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Carrie Reinhardt Adams, Environmental Horticulture, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Jessica Hines, EAWAG, 8600 Dubendorf, Switzerland
The ultimate test of our understanding of ecological systems is not only whether we can predict the environmental impact of species and genetic diversity loss, but rather, whether we can regain biodiversity and ecosystem functioning through ecological restoration.  Recent advances in the field of genetic diversity-ecosystem function (GDEF) research suggests that increasing intraspecific diversity can have a positive influence on many of the community and ecosystem responses that are associated with successful ecological restoration.  However, most of the emphasis in restoration regarding intraspecific diversity to date has focused on introducing locally adapted plant materials to improve fitness and population persistence.  A rigorous assessment of GDEF research methodologies and findings is necessary to better understand the importance of maximizing intraspecific diversity to restoration success.  We quantitatively assessed the GDEF literature to evaluate the relevance of GDEF approaches to ecological restoration.  


Our assessment reveals that GDEF experiments are typically 500 times smaller and monitored for less than half of the time devoted to ecological restoration monitoring.  Moreover, the levels of genetic diversity in GDEF studies may not be applicable to restoration efforts since these diversity levels often do not reflect the amount of genetic diversity found in most natural plant communities.  Finally, many studies either did not reveal the source of genotypes for experiments, acquired them from germplasm collections, or did not explicitly include locally adapted genotypes.  Taken together these findings suggest that spatial and temporal scaling, intraspecific diversity levels, and genotype source are key factors limiting the relevance of GDEF research to restoration practice.  In the face of this uncertainty, we present a conceptual framework to provide guidance for incorporating genetic diversity considerations into restoration practice.