Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) communities dominate a large fraction of the United States and provide critical habitat for a number of wildlife species of concern. Loss of big sagebrush due to fire followed by poor restoration success continues to reduce ecological potential of this ecosystem type, particularly in the Great Basin. Choice of appropriate seed sources for restoration efforts is currently unguided due to knowledge gaps on genetic variation and local adaptation as they relate to a changing landscape. We are assessing ecophysiological responses of big sagebrush to climate variation, comparing plants that germinated from ~20 geographically distinct populations of each of the three subspecies of big sagebrush. Seedlings were previously planted into common gardens by US Forest Service collaborators Drs. B. Richardson and N. Shaw, (USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, Provo, Utah and Boise, Idaho) as part of the Great Basin Native Plant Selection and Increase Project. Seed sources spanned all states in the conterminous Western United States. Germination, establishment, growth and ecophysiological responses are being linked to genomics and foliar palatability. New information is being produced to aid choice of appropriate seed sources by Bureau of Land Management and USFS field offices when they are planning seed acquisitions for emergency post-fire rehabilitation projects while considering climate variability and wildlife needs.
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Selecting sagebrush seed sources for restoration in a variable climate: ecophysiological variation among genotypes
USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station and USDA Bureau of Land Management