What is assisted migration?

We’re all familiar with migrations, movements of animals from one region to another. Many of these movements are annual cycles: birds and monarch butterflies go south for the winter, then travel north again in the spring.

Animals are also migrating because of climate change. Seeking the kind of weather they depend on, animals of all kinds are moving up mountains or away from the equator.

Changing weather patterns affect plants, too, and plants migrate in their own way. As plants scatter their seeds, those that land in a slightly cooler location to the north are more likely to survive and reproduce than those that find themselves in a slightly warmer spot to the south. This way, over time and generations, entire plant species migrate towards more favorable areas.

But many plant species are just not able to move themselves fast enough to keep up with the changing climate. Here is where the idea of assisted migration comes in.

We can predict where plant species will need to move to in the not-so-distant future. For example, we know that if species native to southern Illinois are going to survive, they will need to move to Wisconsin. Seeing that they’re not traveling here fast enough on their own, we can take plants and seeds and move them ourselves.

By bringing plants from more southerly areas to our communities in Wisconsin, we can help them survive, as well as prepare our yards for the kinds of weather conditions we can expect to see here soon.

What is assisted migration?

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