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Keywords:

  • biotechnology;
  • Castanea dentata ;
  • ecosystem restoration;
  • genetic engineering;
  • introduced pathogen;
  • reintroduction;
  • socio-ecological system;
  • tree improvement

Summary

We propose a conceptual framework for restoration of threatened plant species that encourages integration of technological, ecological, and social spheres. A sphere encompasses ideas relevant to restoration and the people working within similar areas of influence or expertise. Increased capacity within a sphere and a higher degree of coalescing among spheres predict a greater probability of successful restoration. We illustrate this with Castanea dentata, a foundation forest tree in North America that was annihilated by an introduced pathogen; the species is a model that effectively merges biotechnology, reintroduction biology, and restoration ecology. Because of C. dentata's ecological and social importance, scientists have aggressively pursued blight resistance through various approaches. We summarize recent advancements in tree breeding and biotechnology that have emerged from C. dentata research, and describe their potential to bring new tools to bear on socio-ecological restoration problems. Successful reintroduction of C. dentata will also depend upon an enhanced understanding of its ecology within contemporary forests. We identify a critical need for a deeper understanding of societal influences that may affect setting and achieving realistic restoration goals. Castanea dentata may serve as an important model to inform reintroduction of threatened plant species in general and foundation forest trees in particular.