Ep. 26 - Don't Hassle Me, I'm Local: Ecological Restoration and Local Ecotypes

Can one specimen of a native plant be more "native" than another?  Plant populations that have adapted to local environmental conditions are called "local ecotypes". They can be genetically different from populations of the same plant growing under different conditions, and for those ecologists who are working to restore damaged ecosystems, whether or not they should use local ecotypes is an important question to consider.

In this month's episode, Steve and Bill hit the road to visit the greenhouses at Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua, NY and meet Brigitte Wierzbicki, Plant Materials Program Coordinator for the Environmental Field Team of the New York State Parks Finger Lakes Region. Brigitte coordinates the Seed Collection and Propagation Program, providing plants for restoration projects conducted within New York State Parks (including the Grassland Restoration Program we covered in episode 21). We find out what Brigitte's job is all about, get the scoop on Sonnenberg Gardens, and delve into the research covering the fascinating and complex corner of ecology that is local ecotypes.

We also meet her boss, Whitney Carleton – New York Natural Resource Stewardship Specialist for the Finger Lakes Region, who gives us even more info on the great work that her Environmental Field Team is doing.

This episode was recorded at Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua, NY on February 24, 2018, a day that will haunt Bill for some time because of the speeding ticket he got on the way there.

Episode Breakdown:

0:00 – Intro – defining our terms: ecological restoration and local ecotypes

12:00 – The Plant Materials Program and the history of Sonnenberg Gardens

17:00 – Let’s go see the greenhouse!

20:00 – Local ecotypes and genetic diversity

22:45 – Genetic diversity and seed collection

29:40 – “How local is local?”

38:17 – Nativars

42:22 – Is local always best? What is meant by “ecologically appropriate”?

49:36 – Local ecotypes vs nativars

54:49 – How the NYS Parks Plant Materials Program differs from similar programs

56:15 – How you can help / get involved with the Plant Materials Program

Useful Links

As always, check out Always Wandering Art - a big thanks to them for this episode's artwork!

Contact Brigitte, Whitney, and the Environmental Field Team

To share your support of their work, contact Fred Bonn - Regional Director, Finger Lakes Region - Fred.Bonn@parks.ny.gov

The Mid-atlantic Regional Seed Bank 

The Seeds of Success Program

Omernick Ecoregion Levels

To contact the native plant sources mentioned in this episode: White Oak Nursery and The Plantsmen Nursery

  Works Cited

Baer, S.G., Gibson, D.J., Gustafson, D.J., Benscoter, A.M., Reed, L.K., Campbell, R.E., Klopf, R.P., Willand, J.E. and Wodika, B.R., 2014. No effect of seed source on multiple aspects of ecosystem functioning during ecological restoration: cultivars compared to local ecotypes of dominant grasses. Evolutionary applications, 7(2), pp.323-335.

Basey, A.C., Fant, J.B. and Kramer, A.T., 2015. Producing native plant materials for restoration: 10 rules to collect and maintain genetic diversity. Native Plants Journal16(1), pp.37-53.

Bischoff, A., Crémieux, L., Smilauerova, M., Lawson, C.S., Mortimer, S.R., Dolezal, J., Lanta, V., Edwards, A.R., Brook, A.J., Macel, M. and Leps, J.A.N., 2006. Detecting local adaptation in widespread grassland species–the importance of scale and local plant community. Journal of Ecology, 94(6), pp.1130-1142.

Jones, T.A., 2013. Ecologically appropriate plant materials for restoration applications. BioScience63(3), pp.211-219.

Judd, W.S., Campbell, C.S., Kellogg, E.A. and Stevens, P.F., 2002. Plant systematics. A phylogenetic approach. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Mass., USA, 464, pp.3-4.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - https://www.wildflower.org/expert/show.php?id=11206

Mauseth, J.D., 2011. Botany: an introduction to plant biology. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

McKay, J.K., Christian, C.E., Harrison, S. and Rice, K.J., 2005. “How local is local?”—a review of practical and conceptual issues in the genetics of restoration. Restoration Ecology13(3), pp.432-440.