The Role of Plant Nurseries in Climate-Smart Landscaping and Ecological Restoration
The nursery industry grows, markets, and sells plants for ecological restoration as well as urban and suburban landscaping. The Northeast U.S. is a patchwork of small, mostly private land holdings, where the choices of nursery professionals influence the composition of current and future ecosystems. Unfortunately, the nursery industry focuses predominantly on non-native plants. This approach is ecologically detrimental because it fails to support range-shifting native species - a critical need for climate adaptation - and can result in the introduction of invasive species that harm ecosystems. An alternative approach that would support climate-smart landscaping and restoration, while reducing the introduction of invasive species, is for nurseries to focus on native plant species that are able to survive projected warmer temperatures. However, identifying which native plant species are climate-smart poses a significant challenge to nursery professionals.
The goal of this project is to analyze information gathered through a survey and workshops to understand the social, cultural, and economic motivations of the nursery industry in regard to supporting climate-smart practice. In addition, researchers will assemble historical and current native plant inventories to identify a list of native plant species that are viable in the Northeast given future climate change projections, marketable in the nursery industry, and useful for restoration and adaptation projects across the region. Researchers will work with the Northeast Regional Invasive Species & Climate Change (NE RISCC) Management network to disseminate this information through outreach documents and webinars. Additionally, the team will support dialogue among plant growers on native plant best practices through a working group and webinars, and between plant growers and restoration practitioners to inform suppliers about increasing demand for warm-adapted plants to support climate-smart restoration.
Collectively, this work will expand options for viable native plants in the nursery industry, creating a win-win for building climate resilience in ecosystems while simultaneously supporting economic development.