Understanding provenance

  1. Provenance is based on the idea that local plants are genetically adapted to local environmental conditions
  2. Provenance is difficult to predict across different species. This means seed should always be sourced from a large, healthy population even if this means sourcing seed from a larger population that is further away but from a similar environment.
  3. More information about provenance can be read on the Florabank website

The importance of provenance and seed quality for restoration success.

Fundamental to the establishment of resilient, self-sustaining revegetation and restoration work is the use of:

  1. Known-provenance plant material; and
  2. High genetic quality seed sourced from large populations.

    The benefits of knowing your provenance and using high genetic quality seed are:   

    • Reduced risk of rehabilitation failure through:
      1. Using plants and seed genetically adapted to local environments
      2. Using plants and seed able to adapt to changing environmental conditions
      3. Using plants and seed with increased survival rates
      4. Using plants and seed more likely to be fertile and provide vigorous progeny (promoting self-sustaining restoration)
    • Improved biodiversity conservation outcomes through:
      1. Improved landscape function including interdependence with local fauna and fungi
      2. Conservation of local genetic population integrity
      3. Decreased risk of “polluting” the local flora gene pool

    Risks from using poor quality seed, collected from small populations with low genetic diversity include:

    • Compromised genetic integrity of a species
    • Reduced ability to thrive in local conditions
    • Reduced seed set, which is especially critical for species that cannot self-pollinate
    • Reduced growth, vigor or production of less fit progeny. Occasionally, different provenances of the same species cannot interbreed, so mixing them will reduce restoration success
    • Limited evolutionary potential to help plants adapt to environmental change

    Greening Australia makes every effort to ensure that collections are followed in accordance to the scientific recommendations. These can be accessed here.

    Selecting provenance seed for revegetation

    Revegetation is a process of artificially re-introducing native plant species into a degraded or altered site by planting or direct seeding. In any revegetation project there are many variables that will influence successful plant growth such as past use and management of the area, site preparation, species selection, correct revegetation techniques and on-going care.

    It is important to match the environmental conditions of where the seed was sourced from to where it is going. Matching soil type (texture and geology), slope position, aspect, altitude and rainfall gives the best chance of collecting seed that can cope with the local conditions. Unfortunately provenance is very hard to predict and environmental similarities between sites appear to be more useful for sourcing seed than geographic distance. But from conservation and risk management perspectives closer is generally expected to be better providing genetic quality is not poor as is often found in small population.

    Matching the aims of your revegetation project and its site condition or conservation value will help determine how precise a provenance range needs to be.



    Site condition

    Provenance type

    Natural vegetation largely intact but does show some signs of disturbance. Will benefit from the reintroduction of local native species that have not and are unlikely to naturally regenerate. Often lacks understorey species that are less resilient to minor disturbances. e.g. A bush block that has been periodically grazed  

    Seed should be used from a similar vegetation community, soil type and altitude within 10’s km rather than 100’s km.

    Vegetation is degraded but still has reasonable natural species diversity, especially trees and shrubs and resilient ground layer that can cope with regular grazing, weeds and altered nutrient levels.

    Seed should be used from a similar vegetation community, soil type and altitude. In the absence of more local material, seed should be sourced within the local region or sub catchment (10-100 km).

    Natural vegetation has been extensively cleared, revegetation goals include soil conservation, erosion control and creating windbreaks and woodlots.


    Seed should be used from a similar vegetation community, soil type and altitude. In the absence of more local material, seed should be sourest within the broader region or catchment (10-100's km).