Amanda Sweetman

M.S. Candidate, Utah State University

Field Travel Grant Type 1

The relative importance of seed provenance and intra-specific diversity in the ecological restoration of wetlands: improving success for today and for tomorrow

“Widespread concern over declining global levels of biodiversity has led to increasing restoration activity in biodiversity hotspots such as wetlands. The high levels of biodiversity in wetland systems help maintain ecosystem functions, many of which can provide important services to society. These services include improving water quality, buffering against hydrologic fluctuations, and providing areas for recreation. Despite the known importance of these systems, there has been a more than 50% decrease in original wetland area in the last 200 years. And, as climate change and other anthropogenic pressures increase the demand on already over-burdened wetlands, it will be increasingly difficult to reconstruct or restore wetlands.

One major challenge facing restoration practitioners is how to reconstruct wetlands that not only provide the services needed today, but that will also be resilient and adaptable to the rapidly changing environments these systems may experience in the future. For my graduate work, I am working to extend current theories about genetic diversity and ecosystem function: a possible solution for today and tomorrow. One aspect of my proposed research will be to examine the role of intraspecific plant diversity in accelerating the restoration of ecosystem functions (productivity and water usage) in wetland restoration projects.

As the literature contains conflicting conclusions on how to evaluate potential seed sources, the experimental assessment of the relative importance of ecotype richness and local adaptation can yield important information to increase restoration success. The overall objectives of this experiment are to evaluate the practical roles of intraspecific variation and local adaptation in the ecological restoration of wetlands.”