Loss of species, habitat reduction, and declines in genetic diversity in native tall grass prairie plants are constant concerns when working to conserve prairie habitat.
The Living Prairie Museum addressed this issue by developing the Seeds of Diversity project. EcoAction funding was secured through the Friends of the Living Prairie Museum in order to establish plots for cultivating native plants and harvesting seed.
Remnant prairie contains a number of plant species whose seeds contain a great deal of genetic diversity. The seeds act as a time capsule, containing the codes to resistance to disease, drought, extreme heat and cold, and a host of other local adaptions. When habitat is lost, the plants, their seeds, and the adaptions and genetic information are lost as well. Collecting and growing these seeds ensures that this genetic diversity is shared in future generations of plants, and ensures that these plants are not permanently lost to development and succession.
Seeds collected from remnant tall grass prairie within Manitoba are propagated at the Living Prairie Museum. The seedlings are then transferred to seed plots in St. Norbert where they develop into adult plants. Each season, these plants produce seeds that can be used in restorations, remediation, and even backyard gardens. The seed plots themselves act as a source of public education on the topic of habitat and species losses, ecosystem functioning, and the preservation of cultural heritage.
- Preserve the genetic diversity of plants native to the tall grass prairie ecosystem.
- Tall grass prairie habitat has been reduced to less than 1% of its historical range. The northern extent of tall grass prairie occurs in Manitoba, but remaining prairie is contained in small, fragmented, and highly disturbed areas. With the loss of these small remnants comes the loss of the genetic diversity responsible for resistance to disease and climate change. The Seeds of Diversity project encourages genetic diversity by salvaging native seeds from remaining habitat.
- Increase the biodiversity and habitat quality of restoration sites throughout the City of Winnipeg.
- By using seed from plants that have been adapted to local conditions, the quality of restoration sites is improved. Past restoration projects have utilized seed from habitats outside of the local region (ecovars) which may lack adaptions to local conditions. These ecovars could be more susceptible to disturbance and invasive species.
- Increase awareness of the importance of biodiversity and engage the community in environmental stewardship activities. Seeds produced by the Seeds of Diversity project are available for use by the public. The use of native species on private property is on the rise, as is education on the importance of native species to local ecosystems. The project fills the demand for both seed and outreach.
This project was made possible by the combined efforts of the Friends of the Living Prairie Museum, Living Prairie Museum, the City of Winnipeg and the City of Winnipeg Tree Nursery.
Additionally, this project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of the Environment.
En outre, ce projet a été réalisé avec l'appui financier du Gouvernement du Canada agissant par l'entremise du ministère fédéral de l'Environnement.