Ecosystem restoration with local or broad seed provenancing: Debates and perceptions in science and practice

Elsevier, Biological Conservation, Volume 293, May 2024
Torok K., Valko O., Deak B.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration gives new momentum to restoration projects worldwide, which often involve the introduction of plant species. Research evidence shows that restoration success can depend on the seed source. However, there are still debates about the pros and cons of local vs. broad provenancing in restoration. Despite a general agreement on the need for seed transfer regulation, the debate on provenancing challenges or delays the implementation of restoration. In this perspective article, we highlighted this debate that often creates a bottleneck and also examined this issue by surveying the opinion of Hungarian restoration ecologist researchers, conservation practitioners working in restoration, and other conservation experts on the perception of local vs. broad provenancing and the prioritization of further research versus immediate action. Researchers and practitioners had markedly different attitudes; defining aims and prioritization, using genetic knowledge, and species focus were most important to researchers, while broad provenancing, feasibility, and rapid action were prioritized by practitioners. Comparison of the views of the stakeholders and linking this to a decision framework is a novelty of the study, a step necessary to understand the perception of each other to cooperate for a successful restoration. The results reflect reactive vs. proactive antagonism that should be discussed to identify which approach can be beneficial for restoration and feasible on the given scale. What is needed is to dive into restoration implementation, jointly find bottlenecks, such as seed sourcing, and solve the problems by using the best available knowledge and necessary compromises.