The biogeography of resurrected species

Efforts to introduce American chestnut populations resistant to chestnut blight (C. parasitica)– whether developed through breeding or genetic engineering — envision trees that will be released to participate in natural ecological and evolutionary processes throughout the species’ historical native range. However, like many reintroduction projects, academic and applied attention to chestnut reintroduction has been almost exclusively focused on the development of blight-resistant germplasm and the initial phases of restoration, like release and establishment. For a variety of reasons, far less consideration has been given to potential long-term biogeographic and evolutionary dynamics.

While introgressed blight resistance may allow American chestnut to co-exist with C. parasitica, it is unclear whether the contemporary and future abiotic and biotic conditions in the species’ historical range will be suitable for reintroduced populations. This project uses species distribution modeling to anticipate the future biogeography of blight-resistant American chestnut, given projected changes in temperature and precipitation over the next century. These models are useful starting places for making reintroduction decisions based on where American chestnut is likely to thrive long-term, and for considering how reintroduced populations might interact with other species in their recipient environments.