3 years ago

Climate‐based seed transfer of a widespread shrub: population shifts, restoration strategies, and the trailing edge

Bryce A. Richardson, Lindsay Chaney


Genetic resources have to be managed appropriately to mitigate the impact of climate change. For many wildland plants, conservation will require knowledge of the climatic factors affecting intraspecific genetic variation to minimize maladaptation. Knowledge of the interaction between traits and climate can focus management resources on vulnerable populations, provide guidance for seed transfer, and enhance fitness and resilience under changing climates. In this study, traits of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) were examined among common gardens located in different climates. We focus on two subspecies, wyomingensis and tridentata, that occupy the most imperiled warm‐dry spectrum of the sagebrush biome. Populations collected across the sagebrush biome were recorded for flower phenology and survival. Mixed‐effects models examined each trait to evaluate genetic variation, environmental effects, and adaptive breadth of populations. Climate variables derived from population‐source locations were significantly associated with these traits (< 0.0001), explaining 31% and 11% of the flower phenology and survival variation, respectively. To illustrate our model and assess variability in prediction, we examine fixed and focal point seed transfer approaches to map contemporary and climate model ensemble projections in two different regions of the sagebrush biome. A comparison of seed transfer areas predicts that populations from warmer climates become more prevalent, replacing colder‐adapted populations by mid‐century. However, these warm‐adapted populations are often located along the trailing edge, margins of the species range predicted to be lost due to a contraction of the climatic niche. Management efforts should focus on the collection and conservation of vulnerable populations and prudent seed transfer to colder regions where these populations are projected to occur by mid‐century. Our models provide the foundation to develop an empirical, climate‐based seed transfer system for current and future restoration of big sagebrush.

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