Balancing the need for seed against invasive species risks in prairie habitat restorations

PLoS One. 2021 Apr 7;16(4):e0248583. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0248583. eCollection 2021.


Adequate diversity and abundance of native seed for large-scale grassland restorations often require commercially produced seed from distant sources. However, as sourcing distance increases, the likelihood of inadvertent introduction of multiple novel, non-native weed species as seed contaminants also increases. We created a model to determine an "optimal maximum distance" that would maximize availability of native prairie seed from commercial sources while minimizing the risk of novel invasive weeds via contamination. The model focused on the central portion of the Level II temperate prairie ecoregion in the Midwest US. The median optimal maximum distance from which to source seed was 272 km (169 miles). In addition, we weighted the model to address potential concerns from restoration practitioners: 1. sourcing seed via a facilitated migration strategy (i.e., direct movement of species from areas south of a given restoration site to assist species' range expansion) to account for warming due to climate change; and 2. emphasizing non-native, exotic species with a federal mandate to control. Weighting the model for climate change increased the median optimal maximum distance to 398 km (247 miles), but this was not statistically different from the distance calculated without taking sourcing for climate adaptation into account. Weighting the model for federally mandated exotic species increased the median optimal maximum distance only slightly to 293 km (182 miles), so practitioners may not need to adjust their sourcing strategy, compared to the original model. This decision framework highlights some potential inadvertent consequences from species translocations and provides insight on how to balance needs for prairie seed against those risks.

Grant support

DL and RV received the award. Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center (NE CASC) United States Geological Survey (USGS) There are no grant numbers associated with funding. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.