Phylogenetically and functionally diverse species mixes beget diverse experimental prairies, whether from seeds or plugs

Rebecca S. Barak, Nisa Karimi, Mary Claire Glasenhardt, Daniel J. Larkin, Evelyn W. Williams, Andrew L. Hipp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Phylogenetic and functional diversity are relevant for restoration planning, as they influence important ecosystem functions and services. However, it is unknown whether initial phylogenetic and functional diversity of restorations as planned and planted are maintained over time, that is, the extent to which diversity of the restoration planting is reflected in the diversity of the resulting plant community. Furthermore, in the tallgrass prairie, many restorations are planted from seed. Among-species variation in emergence and establishment affects the transition from seed mixes to realized plant communities in these restorations. We evaluated emergence and early establishment of experimental communities in a biodiversity plot experiment designed to test how phylogenetic and functional diversity influence restoration outcomes. We planted the same experimental communities starting from both seeds and plugs to assess differences in establishment. Our results suggest that phylogenetically and functionally diverse species mixes tend to produce phylogenetically and functionally diverse restored plant communities. After 3 years, experimental communities generally maintained their phylogenetic and functional diversity from seed and plug mixes to established vegetation, despite declines in species richness. While plots planted from seeds had on average 1.3 fewer species than plots planted from plugs, phylogenetic and functional diversity did not significantly differ between the two. Furthermore, most species exhibited no significant differences in percent cover when planted from seeds or plugs. Seeds are generally more cost-effective for restoration than plugs, and our results indicate these two establishment methods achieved similar biodiversity outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13737
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Science Foundation Awards DEB 1354551 and DEB 1354426. R.S.B. was supported by the David H. Smith Fellowship. The authors thank many dedicated volunteers (especially K. Thomas, R. Czuprynski, P. Tota, J. Knight, and J. Field), The Morton Arboretum herbarium staff, Northwestern University/Chicago Botanic Garden staff and students, and seasonal interns for help managing the experiment and collecting vegetation data. The authors thank Pizzo & Associates, Ltd. for providing seeds, plants, and their expert knowledge to this experiment. The authors also acknowledge strong collaborative support from Prairie Moon Nursery, and the Natural Resources and Facilities staff of The Morton Arboretum.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Restoration Ecology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Ecological Restoration.


  • functional diversity
  • grassland
  • phylogenetic diversity
  • seed mix
  • tallgrass prairie
  • traits


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