Prof Kay Havens

Chicago Botanic Garden, USA; khavens@chicagobotanic.org

Title: Prairie restoration -  How to make the best decisions about what seed provenances to collect and where to use them.
*co-author: Andrea Kramer

Abstract: The U.S. tallgrass prairie is one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems.  It is also an ecosystem where ecological restoration has been practiced for nearly a century. Proper sourcing of seed for this restoration has never been straightforward, and it is becoming even more challenging and complex as the climate changes. For decades, restoration practitioners have subscribed to the “local is best” tenet, even if the definition of “local” was often widely divergent between projects. However, given rapid climate change, we can no longer assume that locally-sourced seeds are always the best option. Using examples from our work in the tallgrass prairie and the grasslands of the Colorado Plateau, we discuss what we are learning from provenance trials and how this may influence seed sourcing decisions. We review provisional seed zone maps and seed decision tools, including a new tool under development to assess options of plant provenance based on the goals and context of a given project. Lastly we will discuss our findings in the context of other grassland restoration around the world.

Biography: I am Medard and Elizabeth Welch Director, Plant Science and Conservation at Chicago Botanic Garden. My research interests generally fall under the umbrella of reproductive ecology and conservation of plant species. I have worked on nonrandom reproductive success in a rare evening primrose (Oenothera organensis), and outbreeding depression in Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower) and Lobelia siphilitica (great blue lobelia). I am currently working with a number of colleagues on genetic, demographic and pollination studies on a threatened thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) that is being impacted by a biocontrol weevil and on the responses of native species to changed climates, particularly in relation to germination tolerance ranges. I am also interested in developing measures of success and best practices for ex situ plant conservation programs, from collecting genetically diverse seed accessions to minimizing genetic change during storage and increasing likelihood of success of restorations. A more recent area of focus involves examining the pros and cons of assisted migration for plants, as well as adapting zoo conservation approaches for plants. A final area of research focuses on invasive plant species. I am interested in improving predictive risk assessments and evaluation procedures for deliberately introduced plants, and worked with a team that developed the Chicago Botanic Garden's Invasive Plant Policy. Most of these projects are carried out in collaboration with graduate students. I have worked with students from programs at Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign.