Sourcing plants for conservation and restoration: developing a risk assessment framework

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Robert Venette
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The movement of plants or their seeds for pollinator conservation or prairie restoration can be ecologically and economically risky (i.e., involve the inadvertent movement of contaminant pests, pathogens, or plants, or the intentional introduction of plants that become invasive). This project creates a framework to evaluate risks associated with the movement of plant material sourced at different distances from a site relative to the risks of maintaining the current practice of sourcing within approximately 100 miles of the planned restoration or enhancement site. The benefit of an explicit risk analysis framework will be to greatly reduce the likelihood of additional unintended introductions of pests and noxious species, such as was seen with the introduction of Palmer amaranth into Minnesota via seed for pollinator habitat. It will also take into account concerns about adaptation to future environmental conditions. Stakeholders include private, state, federal, and non-profit land managers who undertake planting for conservation or restoration. An important outcome of these risk assessments will be to understand the interactions among sites, species, ecological communities, and ecosystem functions that influence risk. The geographic scope includes the states of Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, with application broadly to grasslands of the central US.