Abstract: As environments and global climate change, conservation organizations are initiating or expanding ex situ seed collections (e.g. the United States Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, and the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew Gardens). While it is advisable to capture as much phenotypic and genetic diversity as possible, quantitative advice about how much and where to collect is lacking. This knowledge is urgently needed especially for rapidly declining species. I demonstrate a new approach to optimize sampling protocols for collecting seed (Hoban and Strand 2015, Hoban and Schlarbaum 2015). I use spatial, demographic and genetic data from three species, and simulated data under an individual-based model, to design collections that maximize genetic diversity while minimizing collection size. I find that (as expected based on theory) reproduction and dispersal traits significantly influence the genetic diversity captured in seed collections, as does perennial vs. annual life history. For example, a highly self-pollinating, low dispersal species needs sample sizes five times larger than current guidelines. I also discuss the extent to which existing collections have optimally collected in the past, and an ongoing project to design seed collections for threatened ash (Fraxinus) species. Results show that collectors can and should customize their sampling protocols for the target species, rather than use commonly implemented “rules of thumb.” These results have also implications for sampling in any ecology or genetics study. This approach will help to efficiently and effectively achieve breeding, restoration and conservation success.
Click here for his website.