Genetic considerations in ecosystem restoration using native tree species

Rehabilitation and restoration of forest ecosystems are in growing demand to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and desertification - major environmental problems of our time. Interest in restoration of ecosystems is increasingly translated into strong political commitment to large-scale tree planting projects. The value of using native tree species in ecosystem restoration is receiving growing recognition both among restoration practitioners and policy makers. However, insufficient attention has been given to genetic variation within and among native tree species, their life histories and the consequences of their interactions with each other and with their environment. In this article, we review current practices in ecosystem restoration using native tree species, with a particular focus on genetic considerations. Our discussion is organised across three themes: (i) species selection and the sourcing of forest reproductive material; (ii) increasing resilience by fostering natural selection, ecological connectivity and species associations; and (iii) measuring the success of restoration activities. We present a number of practical recommendations for researchers, policymakers and restoration practitioners to increase the potential for successful interventions. We recommend the development and adoption of decision-support tools for: (i) collecting and propagating germplasm in a way that ensures a broad genetic base of restored tree populations, including planning the sourcing of propagation material of desired species well before the intended planting time; (ii) matching species and provenances to restoration sites based on current and future site conditions, predicted or known patterns of variation in adaptive traits and availability of seed sources; and (iii) landscape-level planning in restoration projects.

Thomas, E.; Jalonen, R.; Loo, J.; Boshier, D.; Gallo, L.; Cavers, S.; Bordacs, S.; Smith, P.; Bozzano, M.
Forest Ecology and Management - On-line first paper
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