When we talk about the value of native plants and their role in conservation there is one term that doesn’t come up all that often, although it should with “local genotype”. Genotype refers to the genetic composition of an organism. Local genotype plants have adapted certain genetic traits which give them advantages when growing in certain areas. The local conditions (climate, soil composition, etc.) of an area influence the inheritable genetic traits that distinguish local genotypes from other populations of the same plant. So what does all of this really mean?
We know that within the context of conservation native plants are essential. Local genotypes of native plants can foster more resilient native plant populations for respective areas, making them better suited for their historical environment. So when we think about reconstructing native ecosystems like upland prairie and wetlands around the region, there is a lot more that goes on than just selecting plants that can grow in those areas.
Nurseries like Taylor Creek Restoration Nurseries incorporate this science into their seed selection process. They select local genotypes from various areas around the regional Midwest. Taylor Creek chooses local genotypes so that when plants are reintroduced into the wild they have more resilience and reinstate the highest level of biodiversity possible for a respective restoration site or planting.
There are ongoing debates within the scientific and conservation community on best practices for restoring native plant communities and the impact of climate change. Staying true to local genotypes can provide the resilience and genetic familiarity to host successful plantings but could genotypes from different regions present a more suitable solution to environments that have already been altered?
For more information regarding local genotypes, biodiversity, and the importance of including climate change when contemplating these concepts, visit Taylor Creek Restoration Nurseries “Growing Philosophies” page and check out this article by Thomas Jones of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service.