In testing varying reintroduction scenarios with the NEWGARDEN software, the UC team simulated natural population development and found
* To ensure the greatest population growth rate and genetic diversity retention among the original founders and offspring trees, an original planting of a stand of 169 founders should be 1,500 meters (about 1,640 yards) into the preserve’s borders. Said Kashimshetty, “If you plant near the edge of a preserve, you risk slower population growth and greater loss of genetic variation due to offspring dispersal out of the preserve.”
* By simply planting the founder trees 1,500 meters into the preserve and planting the original founder trees in a grid 16 feet apart from one another, the result in 101 years’ time should be about 7,000 trees.
* At least 9,000 resulting trees would be possible in 101 years’ time by moderate dispersal (manually moving) of offspring seeds or seedlings to greater distances from the founders than would occur naturally.
* If the original stand of trees is planted at the edge of the preserve, it’s estimated that the original stand of 169 trees would result in approximately 2,000 resulting trees in 101 years’ time. Thus, by planting the trees further into a preserve at 1,500 meters, with proper spacing, it’s estimated that 247 percent more trees will result in 101 years’ time.
* Even planting the founder trees only 500 meters (1,640 feet) into the preserve vs. planting founders on the preserve’s edge would increase the population size by 148 percent in 101 years’ time.
* Further, by planting the original founder trees just 500 meters into the preserve, 97 percent of their genetic diversity is preserved. Thus, if the goal is only to preserve genetic diversity without regard for achieving maximum population size, it’s sufficient to plant the original stand 500 meters (1,640 feet) into the preserve.
Through such comparative computer modeling, the goal is to provide improved guidelines for the spacing and geometric patterning of founding trees in restoration plantings of American Chestnut, leading to a more successful return of this threatened but important native to the eastern forests of North America.
M.B. Reilly | Newswise Science News
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