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322 East Front Street
Boise, ID, 83702
United States

208-373-4344

Providing the knowledge and technology required to improve the availability of native plant materials for restoring diverse native plant communities across the Great Basin.

2015 Climate Change & Seed Zones

A Field Test of Local Adaptation in Bluebunch Wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata)
Kathryn Alexander, Matt Orr, Holly Prendeville, Francis Kilkenny, Brad St. Clair, and Matt Horning

For this project, we aim to examine the efficacy of a recently delineated seed transfer zone (St. Clair et al., 2013) for bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), a perennial bunchgrass that occurs throughout the intermountain west. Our hypothesis is that bluebunch wheatgrass populations sourced and grown at a test site within a previously delineated seed transfer zone will outperform populations gathered from other zones, and that the amount that plant performance declines will correlate with increasing climate differences among sites.

 This project is part of a larger effort designed to test the efficacy of seed zones in bluebunch wheatgrass (Kilkenny & St. Clair, 2014).  Whereas that effort will examine plant traits across sixteen common gardens, the purpose of the work proposed here is to examine plant traits in greater detail at one or two sites.  By examining traits in more detail it may be possible to uncover additional mechanisms of local adaptation and to better understand the life history or morphological traits underpinning population differences in plant fitness.  It may also be possible to validate assumptions underlying more limited data collection.  For example, surrogate indicators of fitness such as reproductive stalks, which will be measured at all common gardens, could be further validated by examining the number of seeds per stalk produced by plants from each population at one site. 

Objectives:

  • General: Evaluate local adaptation and performance (e.g. establishment, survival, growth and reproduction) of bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) populations based on predictions made by seed zone studies.
  • Specific: Supplement a large-scale study of seed zone efficacy being done at over a dozen common gardens by providing detailed measurements of plant adaptation and performance at one or two common gardens.