(Colorado News Connection) Researchers with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine spent two years studying the nation's supply of native seeds, and found significant shortfalls.
A new report shows that in order to respond to climate disruptions and keep ecosystems intact, significant work is needed to bolster seed production and distribution.
Vera Smith, senior federal lands policy analyst with Defenders of Wildlife, said native seeds are critical for post-wildfire rehabilitation and other recovery efforts.
"Our insufficient supply," said Smith, "is a major barrier to ecological restoration and other revegetation projects that we need to do across the nation in order to keep our lands healthy, natural and resilient to climate change."
When seeds from plants that are native to a region impacted by wildfire are not available, nonnative species are planted instead. But these species frequently are not able to adapt and thrive in foreign soils.
If those plants fail to put down roots, rains can erode hillsides and make the recovery of watersheds that people, wildlife and plants depend on much more difficult.
The report calls for concerted action between Tribal Nations and the U.S. Departments of Interior, Agriculture and Defense to build a more robust native seed supply chain as climate change brings more frequent and extreme weather events.
Smith said significant investments, including funding in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, are needed to get the job done.
"They need to build national seed warehouses that can meet their needs," said Smith. "They need to have robust national plant programs, they need to have botanists and ecological restoration specialists on staff."
Native plants are also more drought tolerant than nonnatives. Smith said native seeds and plants are the foundation for healthy ecosystems and the environment.
"And our native wildlife evolved to live with these native plants," said Smith. "It's what they eat, it's what keeps them alive. And if we lose our native flora, we risk losing our native wildlife."