Endemic species

Carrie Sekerak, Deputy District Ranger, Ocala National Forest

Carrie Sekerak presents on the state of the isolated wetlands of Ocala National Forest. She describes the current issues faced in isolated wetland management, and gives a snapshot of best practices being applied. 

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Juliet Rynear, Florida Native Plant Society Executive Director

The Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) is working with private landowners to help conserve critically endangered plant species. Two of our projects represent the importance and value of this work: the Warea Partnership Project and the TorreyaKeepers Project. Warea amplexifolia (clasping warea) is a federally-listed endangered plant species endemic to central Florida and only 2 large populations remain (greater than 500 plants). The largest population resides entirely on private lands and many of those are small parcels that resulted from a failed subdivision in the 1960’s. By partnering with private landowners, FNPS has been able to assist in land management (population and habitat monitoring, fuel reduction and prescribed fire). FNPS has also acquired and assisted in the acquisition of parcels for conservation by working with local land trusts, private foundations, and nonprofit organizations. The Florida Panhandle is home to the most endangered conifer in North America: Torreya taxifolia (Florida torreya). Torreya taxifolia is a Federally Endangered tree that only occurs in the ravines east of the Apalachicola River in Liberty and Gadsden counties. Since the 1950’s, Torreya taxifolia populations have declined to fewer than 1,000 mature trees, as the species is infected with a deadly fungal pathogen. Most known trees are on State lands, including Torreya State Park which is named after this iconic species. FNPS is working to: 1) reach out to property owners in the known range of Torreya taxifolia, 2) document and monitor confirmed trees, 3) collect genetic material, and 4) advise on best management practices.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Carol Denhof, Longleaf Alliance

The Longleaf Pine was once the dominant tree species in the south, covering over 90 million acres from Virginia to Texas. Over the last 400 years, the abundance of this species has decreased due to non-sustainable timber harvest, clearing of land for agriculture and development and exclusion of fire. As this ecosystem was diminished, many of its associated plants and animals have become federally threatened or endangered, state-listed or, at best, rare. At the low point in the 1990’s, it was estimated that less than 3 million acres remained. Today, because of the work of The Longleaf Alliance and our partner NGOs, state and federal agencies, and private landowners we are making progress, and now estimate the extent of the resource at 4.7 million acres. An increasing number of landowners that are restoring longleaf to their lands are becoming interested in using a whole ecosystem approach to longleaf restoration. In addition to the traditional interest in longleaf timber production, they have come to appreciate the value in managing forests that support plant and animal diversity as well as the overall health of the ecosystem. Having this diversity in place is essential to achieving their objectives as landowners. It also contributes to true restoration of the South’s great longleaf forest. With the majority of longleaf-suitable lands existing on private lands, the importance of engaging these landowners to support ecosystem restoration and conservation is more important than ever. It is also important to work in partnership with other groups to reach long-term restoration goals. The Longleaf Alliance is working in conjunction with other partners that are members of the Longleaf Partnership Council (LPC) to achieve the restoration goals established by America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative. Restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem and the species associated with it is a high priority for all 33 members of the LPC. The LPC has set an ambitious goal of increasing the acreage of longleaf pine to 8 million acres by 2025. Members include federal agencies including US Forest Service (USFS), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Department of Defense, state agencies, NGO’s, and private landowners.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Dr. Jon Ambrose, Georgia DNR, Chief of Wildlife Conservation

All state wildlife agencies in the Southeast have developed State Wildlife Action Plans, strategic plans for conservation of rare or declining species and their habitats. Some states have included plants as species of greatest conservation need, and others are considering doing so in the next revision of their plans. In recent years, states have recognized the need to focus additional resources on landscape scale conservation planning and implementation. The Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) is a regional conservation initiative that spans the Southeastern United States and Caribbean. SECAS emerged as a response to the unprecedented challenges facing our natural and cultural resources, including urban growth and climate change. Participating states and organizations have contributed to the development of the Southeast Conservation Blueprint, a dynamic spatial plan that identifies the most important areas for conservation and restoration across the region. The shared vision of SECAS is a connected network of lands and waters that supports thriving fish and wildlife populations and improved quality of life for people as well as a goal of 10% or greater improvement in the health, function, and connectivity of southeastern ecosystems by 2060. In addition, SEAFWA states recently collaborated on a project to develop a list of regional species of greatest conservation need from the very large number of species identified as priorities in fifteen State Wildlife Action Plans. This list, which serves as a complement to the Southeast Conservation Blueprint, will facilitate prioritization of conservation projects and collaboration among states within the region. Developing and implementing conservation plans across landscapes and suites of species requires financial resources well in excess of those currently available to state agencies and partner organizations. Recovering America's Wildlife Act (HR 3742), introduced in July 2019, would allocate a total of $1.4 billion annually to state and tribal agencies to address the full range of conservation needs articulated in State Wildlife Action Plans. A national coalition of organizations is working for passage of this landmark federal bill, which will provide critical funding for conservation of native species and natural communities throughout the country.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Amy Jenkins, Florida Natural Areas Inventory

Chad Anderson, Florida Natural Areas Inventory

Jason Drake, United States Forest Service

Understanding the historic conditions and habitats in a region is a vital first step to planning restoration and management activities. With our partners, US Forest Service, Florida Forest Service, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) used aerial photography from as far back as the 1930’s, coupled with current photography, soils data, LiDAR elevation data, rare plant occurrences, and GPS’d groundtruthing points, to develop an historic vegetation map of several large contiguous conservation lands in the Apalachicola region. These maps cover a large portion of the region and are an important baseline for ecological and hydrological restoration efforts by managers across property boundaries. Additionally, historic vegetation maps can be used on a smaller scale when planning silvicultural projects, targeting specific habitats for rare plant surveys, or to identify areas where fire has long been absent. This map has been a vital tool when studying rare plant species such as Harper’s beauty (Harperocallis flava). Harper’s Beauty is a critically imperiled, federally endangered plant that is endemic to the Florida panhandle and grows in the species rich pitcherplant prairies of the Apalachicola River lowlands. FNAI has been documenting its populations for more than a decade. Harper’s beauty thrives in a fire dependent habitat that in recent decades has seen a reduction in the fire application and hence an increase of woody vegetation cover and some populations have been reduced or lost. Most recently we established monitoring plots to attempt to quantify its habitat conditions, especially in relation to fire. Preliminary data analysis has provided valuable insight to help guide management.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Sara Johnson, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at University of Illinois: UrbanaChampaign

Brenda Molano-Flores, Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign

Janice Coons, Eastern Illinois University

Many rare and at-risk species exhibit a paucity of research, leaving gaps in the knowledge required to conserve them. Macbridea alba Chapman (White birds-in-a-nest, Lamiaceae) is a federally threatened and state endangered herbaceous mint restricted to a narrow distribution in the longleaf pine ecosystem of the Florida panhandle. Habitat conversion and destruction are among the primary reasons for Macbridea alba’s decline. Populations are highly fragmented by plantations, clear cuts, or development resulting in extirpation in some areas. Whereas known Macbridea alba populations are primarily found within Apalachicola National Forest, it is uncertain exactly how many exist, and few are documented outside of protected areas. There are many unknowns regarding the ecology of this species; however, previous research suggests that microhabitat differences and disturbance play an important role in its reproduction and survival. Habitat suitability models are a useful tool for gaining insight into the potential drivers of species distribution and persistence on the landscape. These models can define the environmental predictors of occurrence and facilitate the discovery of previously unknown populations. Additionally, these models can guide conservation of areas for potential reintroduction based on habitat conditions and proximity to known source populations. We have created preliminary habitat suitability models using known occurrence records for Macbridea alba as well as open sourced environmental spatial data to identify new areas of potentially suitable habitat. In 2019, field surveys were conducted for the purpose of model verification resulting in the discovery new populations. In the future, models using a disturbance variable such as fire season or time since fire, will be used to determine if the models could be improved. The results from the improved models will help us understand the specific role of fire management and fire frequency on the persistence and survival of this species. Additionally, it will assist us in defining range limits and environmental parameters for Macbridea alba’s distribution and whether it is a candidate for reintroduction or ex-situ conservation efforts.

 

 

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Dr. Michele Elmore, US Fish & Wildlife Service Lindsay Dombroskie, Texas A & M University, Natural Resources Institute

Georgia rockcress (Arabis georgiana Harper) is a short-lived perennial plant of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) endemic to Alabama and Georgia. In 2014, this species was listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act due to ongoing threats from development that either destroys or degrades habitat, and facilitates the invasion of nonnative species. The Service is currently conducting a 5-Year Status Review of the species and will develop a formal Recovery Plan. To support the 5-Year Status Review and development of the Recovery Plan a Species Status Assessment (SSA) was conducted. The SSA considers what the species needs to maintain longterm viability by characterizing the status of the species in terms of its resiliency, redundancy, and representation (together the 3Rs). Population resiliency was measured by population size, and habitat suitability, degradation and protection. Species redundancy and representation was measured by the number of populations and how they are distributed across genetic groups. In situ safeguarding has the potential to contribute to all 3Rs via population augmentations, reintroductions, and introductions. Safeguarding projects by the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance has preserved genetic stock from several Georgia populations which has contributed to multiple experimental in situ safeguarding efforts to further conserve the species. Success of these in situ conservation efforts, when combined with habitat protection and management, may prove to be essential to prevent further decline of the species in the wild and ultimately lead to recovery (delisting) of the species. We will discuss several future scenarios from the SSA that included protection, management and in situ safeguarding. We will explore next steps that include development of a range-wide Georgia rockcress Recovery Plan and recovery strategy where we consider how to move from experimental in situ safeguarding to species recovery.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Stephanie Koontz, Archibold Biological Station, Cheryl L. Peterson, Bok Tower Gardens, Valerie C. Pence, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Eric S. Menges, Archbold Biological Station

Translocations are an increasingly utilized tool for rare plant conservation. Urbanization along the Lake Wales Ridge, in southcentral Florida, has led to 85% loss of native Florida scrub and sandhill. The few remaining intact patches hold a plethora of endemics. Our program has translocated several species from unprotected to protected parcels. All translocations are monitored post-outplanting and demographic data used to evaluate success. Here we present case studies for three federally listed species and discuss the challenges in restoring rare plants. Ziziphus celata has few remnant, mostly unprotected populations. Further contributing to its rarity is slow growth and limited sexual reproduction. We implemented 10 translocations between 1998 and 2012. Analyses of vital rates through 2016 determined annual survival of both wild and translocated plants is high (>90%), but growth of transplants is 1/10th the rate of wild plants. Many wild plants flower annually, yet <3% of transplants have reached reproductive maturity. Setting benchmarks for translocation success is challenging when dealing with a slow-growing, reproductively challenged species. Crotalaria avonensis has two protected and one unprotected site. Fruit set is low, requires insect pollination, and seedlings are rare. In 2012, we introduced genetic material from the unprotected site to a protected parcel. Transplants have thrived and expanded through clonal and seedling recruitment, from 84 original transplants to 208 plants in 2019. Germination of sown seeds was also a success (47%) with many surviving, flowering and fruiting. The first decade of this translocation may qualify as a success, but the ultimate test comes in long-term population responses to land management activities and climate change. Dicerandra christmanii has <10 sites, only one is protected. It relies on periodic fire to maintain open sandy gaps within the scrub matrix and persists from post-fire seedling recruitment. We have augmentated (2010) and introduction (2012) populations. Both translocations grew exponentially, but the question remained, were populations demographically viable. Using long-term demographic data from wild plants and integral projection models, we determined vital rates and predicted population trajectories were similar between wild and translocated populations. Wild populations provide a priori knowledge of a species’ basic biology and ecological requirements to inform more successful translocations.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Dr. Reed Noss, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative, Florida Institute for Conservation Science and Southeastern Grasslands Initiative (Contractor) Jennifer Cartwright, U.S. Geological Survey Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative Theo Witsell, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative

Grasslands of the southeastern United States are considered “endangered ecosystems,” with many grassland types having been reduced by more than 90% since European settlement and some types approaching 100% loss. Many southeastern grassland ecosystems and the rare species they support are now facing additional threats from climate change, invasive species, and other habitat changes. Recently, grassland managers and researchers from state and federal agencies, NGOs, and universities collaboratively held a regional workshop to identify key science needs for the conservation of southeastern grassland ecosystems and species. The workshop focused on identifying the types of scientific information needed to support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state agencies in the development of Species Status Assessments (SSAs) for grassland species listed as endangered or threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) or under consideration for such listing. Because SSAs provide a unified, official resource for species’ biological information pertinent to all ESA-related decisions (e.g., listing, permitting, Habitat Conservation Plans, and recovery planning), it is critical that they be informed by the best available science. However, research and data are often limited for rare plant species, especially related to potential future climate-change effects on habitat and population trajectories. This presentation addresses some of the major findings from the needs-assessment workshop and discusses possibilities for future research projects to help fill key knowledge gaps identified by workshop participants. Collectively, this needs assessment will help guide the development of collaborative research projects targeted at addressing the most pressing scientific needs for conserving southeastern grassland species of conservation concern.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020