Georgia

April Punsalan, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

April Punsalan describes work that Jason Ayers has done with the South Coastal Program in South Carolina protecting and restoring wetland ecosystems.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Laramie Smith, University of Georgia Dr. James Affolter, State Botanical Garden of Georgia and Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia

As the herbal supplement and alternative health industries grow, foraging for wild medicinals is becoming a more common and profitable phenomenon. In addition to the financial incentive to harvest non-timber forest products (NTFPs), there is a cultural push to “return to the land.” These motivations have raised the prevalence of abusive foraging habits, such as poaching or over-harvesting, increasing the threat to certain useful plant species. Our project draws upon the literature and experiences of two stakeholder populations—foragers, and professionals in the field of resource management and conservation—to garner insights about how to improve our response to foraging abuses of threatened but profitable plant species native to the Southeast. We interviewed members from both populations and compiled a summary of their responses; compared current conservation rankings and practices to determine how well they reflected economic factors affecting plant populations; and conducted three case studies on potentially threatened native medicinal plants, assessing both alternative acquisition methods and potential therapeutic substitutes. While the project is on-going, initial results reveal three themes: conservation practices and policies do not adequately address plants that are at risk due to targeted collection for economic benefit; stakeholder populations (resource managers and foragers) do not interface effectively or frequently, but there is potential to work together based on a shared value set; viable alternatives exist for many threatened native medicinal plants, but these are understudied and only folklorically known. This pilot study suggests that foragers might already have the ideal tools for combating harvesting abuses within their own communities. If the foraging community and environmental regulators work in partnership, it should be possible to develop an interactive environmentalism that establishes a productive balance between use and preservation, economy and conservation. This could lead to a more integrated conservation model than those currently in place.

Date Recorded: 
Tuesday, March 3, 2020

From the SePPCon 2020 conference, three inspiring videos:

The Southeastern Grasslands Initiative Dr. Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative Featuring Dwayne Estes, SGI Director, and Theo Witsell, SGI Chief Ecologist. Filmed and edited by Pamela Pasco.

This 15-minute video takes you on a journey across the Southeast and through time, to learn more about the habitats that have been largely erased from society’s collective memory: the incredibly diverse native grasslands of the Southeastern United States. Be introduced to the concept of an “old growth grassland,” characterized by hundreds of native grasses, sedges, wildflowers, and shrubs, as well as dozens of species of birds and countless insects. You’ll learn why the myth of the squirrel that could travel from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River is just that: a myth that has been debunked by recent ecological and historical research. Get introduced to the complicated and diverse mosaic of forests, woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands that once existed across the South. You’ll discover that while Southern grasslands may not be as vast as their Midwestern cousins, what they lack in size is made up for by their astounding diversity. These include treeless prairies, open oak woodlands and pine savannas, rocky glades, high elevation grass balds in the Southern Blue Ridge, and open wet meadows, fens and bogs. Learn about the importance of conservative grassland species, such as the May Prairie Aster, discovered in 2008, which occurs only in a single 10-acre prairie remnant and nowhere else in the world. These conservative species can only grow in high quality grasslands, indicating sites of conservation value. Discover the grasslands that are hidden “in plain sight” throughout the Southeast, and find out the surprising sites on the landscape that still host many grassland plants and pollinators such as the Monarch butterfly.  Witness an unplanned grassland loss that occurred in real time during filming of this video, and learn why our native grassland remnants of just 1 to 20 acres are critical–not only as habitat for rare species such as the Northern Bobwhite-- but also to any hope we have of restoring our native grassland heritage. You’ll see that native grasslands in the Southeast are still yielding amazing discoveries of new plant and animal species each year. Find out the surprising ways in which agricultural practices have been kind to our grasslands, and be assured that there is cause for hope.

Longleaf for the Long Run Carol Denhof, President, Longleaf Alliance

The Longleaf Pine was once the dominant tree species in the southern United States, covering over 90 million acres from Virginia to Texas. Over the last 400 years, this species’ abundance has decreased due to non-sustainable timber harvesting, clearing of land for agriculture and development, and exclusion of fire. However, the overall decline of this ecosystem has been halted due to a coordinated effort by landowners and partners in the southeast to restore this iconic Southern forest that is among the most biologically diverse habitats in North America. The Longleaf Alliance (LLA) works in partnership with private landowners, federal and state agencies, other NGOs, and industry to guide the restoration, stewardship, and conservation of the longleaf pine ecosystem. This outreach video, produced by Abel Klainbaum for LLA, is intended to raise awareness of this unique native ecosystem in the general public. The information presented, through the shared perspectives of four active members of the longleaf community

Piedmont Prairie Initiative Rua Mordicai, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Science Applications Rickie White, Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association Carrie Radcliffe, Atlanta Botanical Garden Jim Affolter, State Botanical Garden of Georgia Jennifer Ceska, State Botanical Garden of Georgia Dr. Johnny Randall, North Carolina Botanical Garden Alan Weakley, North Carolina Botanical Garden Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative Julie Tuttle, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

The Piedmont is home to one of the fastest-growing urban megaregions in the country, stretching from Raleigh-Durham to Atlanta and into Birmingham, AL. Historically, much of the region was covered in grasslands, including pine-oak savannas and open treeless prairies, maintained by frequent fire and grazing by bison and elk. Most Piedmont residents don’t know that the thick upland forests they see today were very different before European arrival. This is one of the major barriers to bringing grasslands back to the region. The Piedmont Prairie Partnership is a group of non-profit, state, and federal agencies working to bring back Piedmont Prairies in an area from Virginia down to Alabama. Late in 2019 to early 2020, the partnership created two videos to help tell the story of the past, present, and future of prairies in the Piedmont.

Date Recorded: 
Monday, March 2, 2020

Safeguarding Mountain Bog and the Mountain Purple Pitcher Plant

Carrie Radcliffe, Atlanta Botanical Garden (SePPCon 2016)

Wetland species are particularly at high risk of extinction. The Mountain Bog Safeguarding is a Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance signature project that seeks to safeguard bog endemics from one of the rarest habitats in Georgia. This entails conservation horticulture, research, education and reintroduction. Meticulous records of a suite of rare bog endemic species kept during ex situ management allow for careful reintroduction to appropriate safeguarding sites in the wild. Carrie reviews the example of Mountain purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea var. montana).

This work was presented at the Southeast Partners in Plant Conservation (SePPCon) 2016 Meeting. Learn more about SePPCon here.

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Date Recorded: 
Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Building Capacity in Plant Conservation

Mary Pfaffko, Georgia Department of Natural Resources & Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (SePPCon 2016)

Mary Pfafftko, Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division emphasizes that the plant conservation needs can only be done with partnerships. She reviews the key elements of  State Wildlife Action Plans: species of greatest conservation need, key habitats, threats, conservation actions, monitoring plan, revision plan, coordination with federal, state and local agencies and Native American tribes, and public participation. She discusses funding opportunities for private landowners and NGOs, the restrictions on various funding sources, the states in the U.S that have authority to manage plants, and the differences in how each state approaches wildlife and rare plant management/ funding opportunities. She recommends models such as the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance as an effective way to engender collaborations to help conserve plants. She describes Restoring America's Wildlife Act, a national effort to support State Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program and the Georgia Wildflower Preservation Act of 1973.

This work was presented at the Southeast Partners in Plant Conservation (SePPCon) 2016 Meeting. Learn more about SePPCon here.

Date Recorded: 
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
The extremely rare pine snake’s return to the region has been credited to the habitat restoration efforts implemented to support smooth coneflower. Here Clemson University graduate student Brian Hudson holds a male pine snake.
Photo Categories: 
Photo Credit: 
Patrick Ceska

Jennifer Ceska, Heather Alley, Jim Affolter, and Jenny Cruse-Sanders, The State Botanical Garden of Georgia

The Connect to Protect for Biodiversity philosophy and the educational and horticultural methodology launched in Georgia in 2014 from Athens and has spread like a Monarchs on the wing across the entire state since. Georgia gardeners have tremendous opportunity to help support wildlife by layering native plants into their display. We share designs, techniques for getting natives on the ground, species recommendations, and sources for native plants, all with an eye on conservation ethics. Displays can be small like potted plants on a patio or cheerful mailbox gardens. They can also be larger like grand formal displays, loser cottage style compositions, and even pocket prairies along roadsides, driveways, and rights-of-way. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia has been researching species and techniques specific to Georgia for eight years. We also pull best practices and resources from over 320 professionals in both the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance and the Georgia Native Plant Initiative working to close the gap between the demand for native plants by consumers and the availability of native plants from the Green Industry, particularly plants of Georgia provenance. Plant species that have looks and personality, ecological relevance, because we all can Connect to Protect.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 2, 2019

Emily Coffey, Atlanta Botanical Garden

In October 2018, the Florida panhandle and southwest Georgia were devastated by Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 hurricane with wind bursts up to 200 mph. The entire native range for the critically endangered Florida Torreya (Torreya taxifolia) lay within the hurricane’s path. Initial reports from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Florida’s Torreya State Park estimated 80-90% forest canopy loss across the three-county range of the endangered native conifer. Site visits soon after the hurricane by Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) conservation staff confirmed these estimates, noting downed trees throughout the woodland and ravine habitat where T. taxifolia are found, as well as T. taxifolia individuals buried in the debris or completely crushed by fallen overstory trees.

The scale of damage across T. taxifolia habitat following Hurricane Michael is unprecedented. In order to successfully assess the resilience and recovery of the remaining wild T. taxifolia population, ABG proposed a four-year plan. This plan includes surveys of the known T. taxifolia trees, removal of debris, and collection of cuttings for the safeguarding collections, establishment of baseline research experiments examining abiotic and biotic factors resulting from Hurricane Michael, long-term monitoring, shade vs. sun experiments ex situ, and population genetics research.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 2, 2019

Emily E. D. Coffey, Ph.D., Atlanta Botanical Garden

Torreya taxifolia, known as the Florida Torreya, is one of the rarest conifers in the world. Once found as a canopy tree, Torreya is an evergreen dioecious tree endemic to a narrow range of bluffs and ravines adjacent to the Apalachicola River in northwest Florida and extreme southwest Georgia. In the mid-Twentieth Century, this species suffered a catastrophic decline as all reproductive age trees died from a disease (Fusarium torrayae) that remained unknown until very recently. In the decades that followed, this species did not recover. What remains is a population approximately 0.22% of its original size, which is subjected to changes in hydrology, forest structure, heavy browsing by deer, loss of reproduction capability, as well as dieback from fungal disease. Atlanta Botanical Garden’s dedication and efforts to protect Torreya has furthered understanding of its ecology and life cycle as well as the decline of this once majestic species. We present the new in-situ and ex-situ seed experiment we are conducting at ABG as part of the recovery effort for this species.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Friday, May 4, 2018

Jennifer Ceska,Jenny Cruse Sanders, Jim Affolter, Heather Alley, Linda Chafin and Emily Coffey,The State Botanical Garden of Georgia

A tall and elegant wildflower, Smooth Coneflower was dwindling to extinction on Georgia’s roadsides where seed heads and whole plants were poached or killed by roadside maintenance. With her Master’s thesis demonstrating that endangered plants could be grown from seeds and successfully replanted in safeguarding sites, SBG’s Heather Alley changed the way Smooth Coneflower conservation was carried out in Georgia. SBG has grown more than 1,000 Smooth Coneflower plants since 2000. We have planted 900 Smooth Coneflower plants and sown 3,700 seeds directly into the wild. We work with the GPCA and our volunteers to annually monitor and manage four Smooth Coneflower sites in the wild.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Friday, May 4, 2018