Testing for evolutionary change in restoration: A genomic comparison between ex situ, native, and commercial seed sources of Helianthus maximiliani

Joseph E. Braasch, Lionel N. Di Santo, Zachary J. Tarble, Jarrad R. Prasifka, Jill A. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Globally imperiled ecosystems often depend upon collection, propagation, and storage of seed material for use in restoration. However, during the restoration process demographic changes, population bottlenecks, and selection can alter the genetic composition of seed material, with potential impacts for restoration success. The evolutionary outcomes associated with these processes have been demonstrated using theoretical and experimental frameworks, but no study to date has examined their impact on the seed material maintained for conservation and restoration. In this study, we compare genomic variation across seed sources used in conservation and restoration for the perennial prairie plant Helianthus maximiliani, a key component of restorations across North American grasslands. We compare individuals sourced from contemporary wild populations, ex situ conservation collections, commercially produced restoration material, and two populations selected for agronomic traits. Overall, we observed that ex situ and contemporary wild populations exhibited similar genomic composition, while four of five commercial populations and selected lines were differentiated from each other and other seed source populations. Genomic differences across seed sources could not be explained solely by isolation by distance nor directional selection. We did find evidence of sampling effects for ex situ collections, which exhibited significantly increased coancestry relative to commercial populations, suggesting increased relatedness. Interestingly, commercially sourced seed appeared to maintain an increased number of rare alleles relative to ex situ and wild contemporary seed sources. However, while commercial seed populations were not genetically depauperate, the genomic distance between wild and commercially produced seed suggests differentiation in the genomic composition could impact restoration success. Our results point toward the importance of genetic monitoring of seed sources used for conservation and restoration as they are expected to be influenced by the evolutionary processes that contribute to divergence during the restoration process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2206-2220
Number of pages15
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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