Native Plants and Our Changing Planet

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Native Plants and Our Changing Planet
A recap of Wild Ones River City Chapter’s Oct 15, 2018 program

A group of interested folks gathered to hear a presentations by Meredith Zettlemoyer and Susan Magnoli, both Doctoral students at Michigan State University’s W. K. Kellogg Biological Station. Jen Lau at the Lau Lab mentored both.

Meredith Zettlemoyer’s research interests are in community and disturbance ecology and impacts of land use on biodiversity patterns. Meredith presented her research on plant extinctions in Kalamazoo County. She stated that there is biodiversity loss across habitats. She examined extinction by species characteristics: attributes of an organism, native, non-native, and plant height. Her charts showed what plants are losing or winning the fight to survive. Forbs are the losers more often and exotics are spreading/winning.

Zettlemoyer used herbarium records because they are species specific, they span centuries, and because they have a large sample size. In 1947 and 1990 Kalamazoo County was surveyed. She used these surveys in her research also. Her results showed that prairie and native species as well as, rare and edge species are more likely to become locally extinct. She found no particular family is lost more than others and the conversion of the land to agriculture has led to extinction.


  • Historical records can be used to examine patterns of local species loss
  • Certain species characteristics correlate with extinction risk
  • Widespread loss of prairie habitat influences extinction
  • Remains to be seen if prairie restoration can help

Susan Magnoli’s research interests are plant ecology, evolutionary ecology, invasions, and restorations. She stated that soil microbes have a big impact on prairie restorations. She recounted her experiment with Chamaecrista fasciculate (Partidge Pea), a native annual. Can plant populations adapt to restored habitats? Can they adapt quickly enough to help them successfully establish?

Two prairies were studied—Lux and Marshall—it was a reciprocal transplant/resurrection experiment. These two prairies were restored in 2010 using identical seed mixes. Susan collected seeds from both prairies in 2015. She grew 2,000 of plants in a greenhouse using Lux and Marshall seeds and also used seeds from the original source. Once grown, the plants from the three sources were transplanted into each of the two prairie sites. Susan recorded the survival rate, date of first flower, specific leaf area, height, number of root nodules and seed production. The results were varied.

Susan suggested that evolution should be used to our advantage. When there are more variation in traits, there is more adaptive potential. She said to expect population in high diversity prairies to establish more successfully. So consider using multiple seed sources for a single species.


  • Species characteristics influence extinction
  • Habitat loss is a major driver of species loss
  • Restoration can be a good way to conserve native species and habitat
  • Plants may be able to adapt to restored habitats
  • Potential for plants to adapt to a warming climate?

The speakers can be contacted for questions via email:
Meredith Zettlemoyer  [email protected]
Susan Magnolia          [email protected]