A New Research Instrument to Explore the Genetics of Plant Adaptation to Climate Change
SEGA is a common garden instrument for examining climate change, genetic and environmental factors affecting plants and associated communities (soil fungi, insect herbivores, etc.) of those plants. Currently, 10-12 common garden sites are planned across northern Arizona.
SEGA is being designed and developed to offer sites that are equipped with large herbivore fencing, irrigation, and weather stations on sites located up and down an elevation gradient ranging from 5000 ft to 9000 ft.
SEGA was initiated in 2012 with $4 million in seed funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Northern Arizona University to create a system of gardens along the elevation gradient in northern Arizona to integrate genetics into climate change research and to develop new solutions to the challenges of climate change. This highly instrumented facility will enable a new generation of climate change research that allows researchers from diverse disciplines to use elevation as a surrogate for climate change (i.e., higher elevations are cooler and wetter). This array will: 1) provide a scientific basis for the concept of managed translocation, 2) identify drought tolerant genotypes and source populations that perform best at a given location for current and expected future climatic conditions and buffer against loss of ecosystem function, 3) develop techniques for managing exotic species that have become especially invasive with climate change. By planting the same plant genotypes at multiple sites on the gradient and by manipulating soil moisture and other stressors within individual sties, scientists can quantify the genetic and environmental components of plant performance under different environmental conditions. SEGA gardens are in planning for sites on U.S. Forest Service, Grand Canyon Trust, Babbitt Ranches, Bureau of Land Management, the Arboretum at Flagstaff and Arizona Game & Fish Department lands. Through these and other partners, findings emerging from SEGA can be tested and implemented for their ability to improve land management outcomes.