Great Basin NPP Research Projects
For more information on past research projects please visit our annual reports.
Climate change AND 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.
Bluebunch Wheatgrass Molecular Genetics
Bluebunch wheatgrass is a long-lived perennial bunchgrass, and is a key component of many rangeland and forested ecosystems in the interior western United States. Plant communities with high bluebunch wheatgrass abundance have been shown to resist invasion by cheatgrass. Bluebunch wheatgrass is commonly used for restoration, but many restoration seedings have relied on seeds from distant sources that may be poorly adapted to local site conditions. The need for seed transfer guidelines has driven recent studies out by our Forest Service research team. We recently developed preliminary seed transfer zones for bluebunch wheatgrass in the northern Great Basin and Columbia Plateau through a common garden study. These seed zones are currently being verified and further refined using reciprocal transplants. This research will expand on these efforts by adding a molecular genetic component.
Climate Change Effects on Native Plant Establishment and Annual Grass Invasion: Implications for Restoration
Beth Newingham and Keirith Snyder
Our study will:
- increase our understanding of the basic biology and ecology of several native species
- determine native plant sensitivity to altered climate
- provide recommendations on native plant material selections under future climate
- offer insight into the resilience of native plant communities to climate change and resistance to invasion.
Evaluation of Local Adaptation in Achnatherum hymenoides and Artemisia spp.: Implications for Restoration in a Changing Regional Climate
Lesley DeFalco, Daniel Shyrock, and Todd Esque
We propose to:
- Make collections of leaves (for genetic analysis) and tillers (for common gardens) from 3-5 source populations of ricegrass that will be combined with current Mojave collections (N~20 populations),
- Propagate ricegrass plants from tillers that will be transplanted into 5 gardens during fall 2015
- Collect seeds of sagebrush for propagation and evaluation in 3 Great Basin-Mojave gardens during FY2016
Genetic and Environmental Regulation of Functional Traits: New Approaches for Restoration in a Changing Climate
Brad Butterfield and Troy Wood
Our specific objectives are to:
- Measure a suite of standard functional traits on plants in existing common gardens
- Assess genetic variation in these functional traits
- Determine the environmental correlates of functional trait variation
These objectives represent an important first step toward extending the utility of common garden research on a limited set of species in informing generalized transfer guidelines.
Impacts of Climate Change and Exotic Species to Native Plant-Microbial Interactions
Kevin Grady, Paul Dijkstra, Catherine Gehring, Egbert Schwartz, and Hillary Cooper
We will expand one of the three common gardens that we have developed to include a plant genetic by community interaction experiment to test the following hypotheses:
- Genetic variation across the thermal range of A. tridentata and A. hymenoides is correlated to past climate such that plants are locally adapted.
- Competition with exotic species reduces plant fitness and exacerbates maladaptation due to climate change.
- Inoculation with locally adapted soil microbes will decrease the negative impacts of competition with exotic species.
- Both intra- and inter-specific plant interactions are less competitive when plants are grown with sympatric neighbors (i.e. sourced from the same location) compared to allopatric neighbors (i.e. sourced from different locations), especially in the presence of exotic species.
- Sympatric benefits are greatest when inoculated with soil microbes, together reducing negative impacts from maladaptation and exotic species.
Morphological and Genetic Characterization of Blue Penstemon (Penstemon cyaneus)
Mikel Stevens, Robert Johnson, Shaun Bushman, and Jason Stettler
Our objective is to characterize the morphological and genetic variation within blue penstemon (Penstemon cyaneus Pennell). To assess this variability we will collect seeds for common garden evaluation and tissue samples for molecular genetic analysis. Seed and tissue samples will be collected from a minimum of 60 wild populations across its range. Genetic variation will be evaluated in order to determine if specific genotypes exist and if those genotypes are correlated both geographically and with morphological traits that may have value in plant restoration. It is anticipated that this project will take approximately four years to complete.
Relations of Climate Adaptation and Seed Zones in Native Perennials Needed for Restoration of Sage Grouse Habitat
This research will quantify trait variation of native plants that are focal species for selection, increase, and development of seed zones in the Great Basin Native Plant Program. Since 2011, USGS (PI and postdoc, Brynne Lazarus) have developed or customized the theory, high-throughput instrumentation, and interpretive context for a suite of ecophysiological traits that can provide unambiguous insight on how trait variation relates to climate in common gardens. Our analyses focus on identifying threshold physiological responses to temperature and water status that relate directly to site microclimate or weather station data, and to seed zones.
PLANT MATERIALS AND CULTURAL PRACTICES
Characterizing Germplasm Relationships and Maximizing Seedling Establishment of Utah Trefoil (Lotus utahensis Ottley)
Shaun Bushman and Douglas Johnson
We propose to conduct three phases of research to move Utah trefoil to germplasm release and use on rangeland sites:
- Characterize gene-flow and population patterns
- Determine the best seed treatments to maximize germination
- Identify planting depths and seasons that will give the best success
- Bring together common-garden, molecular marker, and environmental data of Utah trefoil collections to determine appropriate germplasm releases.
- Determine seed treatments that maximize germination in Utah trefoil germplasm releases.
- Identify planting depths and seasons that will give the best establishment of Utah trefoil.
UDWR Great Basin Research Center Seed Increase
The UDWR GBRC will maintain the production farms at Ft Green and Ephraim, UT with the role of increasing seed from wildland collections to support further research and increase distribution of native seed to commercial growers.
To achieve these goals, the primary responsibilities of the GBRC will be:
- Direct seeding of increase plots
- Plug production for establishing increase plots from transplants
- Weed, insect, and disease control
- Irrigation; fertilization; seed harvest; and seed cleaning.
This proposal is for annual funding to achieve these goals for the duration of the determined contractual years.
Comprehensive Assessment of Seeded Restoration Species: Factors Controlling Establishment and Persistence in Three Physiographic Regions
Kari Veblen, Eric Thacker, Jason Vernon, Danny Summers, Kevin Gunnell, Tom Monaco, and Joe Robbins
This project will evaluate the success of restoration plant materials over a broad range of ecological sites throughout Utah. Our assessment also provides critical information to compare the cost effectiveness of restoration treatments and seeding. Our effort will also quantitatively assess the performance of species based on biological traits, which can be used to enhance plant material development and influence seeding success over both short and long-term periods.
- Determine the separate and combined effects of soils, environmental parameters, restoration treatments, seeding techniques, and livestock/wildlife use on species establishment and persistence.
- Decipher the association between species traits and seedling establishment and persistence in the field
- quantify the cost effectiveness and efficiency of these seeding efforts.
Restoring Native Plant Diversity in Medusahead Die-off Areas in the Great Basin
The broad objective of this research is to evaluate approaches for restoring native plant diversity following large-scale medusahead die-offs. In a practical sense, medusahead die-offs might represent the best-case scenario for recovering native plant diversity on invasive plant dominated rangeland. While the seedbank is largely depleted, medusahead leaves behind a substantial amount of thatch in these die-offs. This thatch may be very effective in trapping and holding soil moisture and buffering seedbed from large swings in soil temperature (Heady 1956). Thus, these medusahead die-offs not only represent a key restoration opportunity because of the temporary reduction in competition from invasive plants but also because they may leave behind a favorable seedbed to facilitate native plant recruitment.
Evaluate how seeding rate and functional diversity influence native plant recruitment in die-off areas
Quantify medusahead seedbank and recruitment patterns following die-offs to establish duration of restoration windows
Package key research results along with other related restoration research into a decision guide for restoring medusahead die –off areas in the northwest Great Basin and related areas.
Developing a Database for Grass Seed Production
Kent Apostol and Mark Kimsey
Production of native seed is a recent priority and is often more challenging, necessitating research to develop appropriate cultural practices for individual species. Our long-term goal is to develop new technologies for producing high quality native plant materials and improve restoration practices for increasing Great Basin ecosystem’s resilience in the face of a changing climate. The project objective, which is the next step toward attaining our long-range goal, is to conduct a survey on the native grass species’ yields used in the screening trials, in partnership with Scott Jensen at the RMRS and the NRCS in Aberdeen, over a 5-10 year timeframe (2004-2014). Analysis of the data will enable us to evaluate the reliability and predictability (risks) of wildland collected sources and compare yields by species, genotypes, cultural practices, and environmental factors of source locations.
SeedZone Mapper Smartphone App Development
Andrew Bower and Charlie Schrader-Patton
We propose to develop a smartphone app that would allow anyone with a smartphone or tablet device to utilize their devices on-board GPS to determine the provisional seed zone at their location even if a cell signal is not available. The app would show the user the seed zone that they are currently located in, along with a scrollable and zoomable map that would allow the user to determine the proximity of adjacent seed zones.
RESTORATION STRATEGIES AND EQUIPMENT
Forb Islands: Possible Techniques to Improve Forb Seedling Establishment for Diversifying Sagebrush-Steppe Communities
Derek Tilley, Scott Jensen, Kris Hulvey, Erica David, Doug Johnson, Matt Madsen, Jim Cane, Tom Monaco, and Tom Jones
We anticipate that combinations of HFFS, N-Sulate fabric, and seed pelleting will create favorable winter and spring conditions that will warm the soil, retain spring surface moisture, and alleviate dormancy issues to enhance the establishment of forb species. If successful, these temporary mobile techniques could be used to create diverse forb islands across post-burn landscapes that will provide critical food for sage-grouse and native pollinators.
Determine if the patented Hollow Frame Snow System (HFFS) or N-Sulate fabric in combination with seed pelleting technology can be used to successfully establish important Great Basin forbs in islands at three sites in Utah and Idaho.
Placing Fall-harvested Wyoming Big Sagebrush Plants to Catch Snow and Provide Seed for Creating Sagebrush Islands
Kent McAdoo and Kirk Davies
Our primary objective is to evaluate the fall placement of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata spp. wyomingensis) plants, harvested at near seed-ripe, in recently burned areas and cheatgrasss (Bromus tectorum)-dominated plant communities, where the harvested sagebrush will serve both as snow catchments and seed source as the seeds dehisce.
Restoring Sagebrush After Large Wildfires: An Evaluation of Different Restoration Methods Across a Large Elevation Gradient
We propose to compare different sagebrush restoration methods (broadcast seeding, broadcast seeding and packing, planting sagebrush seedlings, seed pillows, and natural recovery) across elevation gradients ranging from 1219 to 2134 m (4000 to 7000 ft) in the Holloway and Long Draw Fires in Nevada and Oregon, where approximately one million acres of sagebrush rangeland burned in 2012 in Oregon and Nevada.
- determine where different post-fire sagebrush restoration methods should be applied based on environmental characteristics to efficiently and effectively restore sagebrush
- evaluate newly developed technologies to restore sagebrush steppe habitat