Assisted migration of plants: Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes

Pati Vitt*, Kayri Havens, Andrea T. Kramer, David Sollenberger, Emily Yates

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

253 Scopus citations


Rapid climate change has the potential to alter the location of bioclimatic envelopes for a significant portion of the world's flora. Plant species will respond variously via phenotypic plasticity, evolutionary adaptation, migration, or extinction. When fragmentation limits migration potential of many species or when natural migration rates are outstripped by the pace of climate change, some propose purposeful, human-mediated migration (assisted migration) as a solution. Here, we join the debate on assisted migration, and while recognizing the potential negative impacts, present a strategy to collect and bank seeds of plant species at risk of extinction in the face of rapid climate change to ensure that emerging habitats are as species-diverse as possible. We outline the framework currently being used by the Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank to prioritize species for seed banking, both for restoration purposes and for potential assisted migration in the future. We propose a strategy for collecting across the entirety of a species range, while targeting populations likely to go extinct under climate change, determined by application of species distribution models. Finally, we discuss current international efforts to collect and bank the global flora, as well as the research needs necessary to fully undertake the strategy presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Assisted colonization
  • Assisted migration
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Climate change
  • Managed relocation
  • Range shifts
  • Seed banking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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