habitat loss

Shana Byrd, The Dawes Arboretum

Prairie was once a dominant grassland ecosystem, covering millions of hectares in the United States. Today, this unique habitat is among the most critically endangered biomes in North America. While eastern deciduous forest was the historical cover throughout most of Ohio, small populations of original prairie habitat existed in the state. Restoring the diversity offered by these historic ecosystems is a worthwhile goal that can support the sensitive species that depend on them. Recent studies on mine lands have supported the survival of native species in reclamation efforts, leading to insights on how this approach can be applied to rehabilitate other challenging landscapes. A five year study is underway at The Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio to explore the practice of using native species in seed mixes to restore diversity on electric utility rights-of-way. Many perennial species in the native seed mix will mature slowly and therefore were not expected to be present in the initial years of evaluation. However, in year 3 of the study, 84% of the species in the native seed mix (22 of 26 species) were recorded as successfully established within the study plots. Biological surveys indicate a variety of insects utilize the plots, including 33 butterfly species, 16 beneficial insect families, and 14 bee taxa. Preliminary results support the use of native seed mixes to enhance species diversity, while also restoring elements of an imperiled ecosystem. The next phase of this project may evaluate the inclusion of less common species of concern within the native seed mixes as a reintroduction strategy onto the landscape. Given initial results, native seed mixes should be considered a viable post-construction ecological restoration method that creates regionally native habitat, increases biodiversity and ecosystem function, more so than the conventional non-native seeding options once considered the only standard practice.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, October 8, 2020

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

Dennis David, National Wildlife Refuge Association; Chuck Hunter, US Fish & Wildlife Service; Duke Rankin, US 
Southeastern Partners in Plant Conservation 2020 Conference Abstracts - 38 -
Forest Service; Joanne Baggs, US FS; Carrie Sekerak, US FS; Jeff Hall, NC Wildlife Resources Div.; Pierson Hill,
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Com.; Greg Titus, FWS; Amy Jenkins, FL Natural Areas Inventory; Lesley
Starke, NC Plant Conservation Program; Jeff Beane, NC State Museum of Natural Sciences; Andy Walker, Croatan &
Uwharries National Forest; Megan Keserauskis, FW; John Dunlap, FS; Jorge Guevara, FS; Janna Mott, The Nature
Conservancy of FL; Jeff Marcus, TNC of NC; Thomas Crate, NC State Parks; Chris Jordan, NC Wildlife Resources
Commission; Jennifer Fawcett, Prescribed Fire Work Group at NCSU, Vernon Compton, Longleaf Alliance, John
Matthews, FS; Dan Frisk, FWS; Chris Petersen, DOD Navy; Jeff Talbert, Atlanta Botanical Garden at Deer Lake;
Jennifer Ceska, GA Plant Conservation Alliance; Jenny Cruse-Sanders, State Botanical Garden of GA; Carrie
Radcliffe, Atlanta Botanical Garden

During the At-Risk Workshop series 2015 to 2016, an interagency status review identified habitat degradation caused by
fire exclusion as the primary reason for decline of more than 114 Southeastern wetland species now trending towards
Federal listing; this critical disturbance regime has also been recognized as essential for the recovery of Federally
Threatened and Endangered wetland-dependent guilds of taxa. In 2019, two workshops funded jointly by the US Fish
and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service and coordinated by the National Wildlife Refuge Association were held,
with the main objective of strategizing getting more fire into isolated ephemeral wetlands to help at-risk species. Over
130 conservation professionals from more than 40 agencies and organizations from the SE US contributed knowledge
of tools and restoration techniques used to manage ephemeral wetlands. Local subject matter experts, biologists, fire
practitioners, ecologists and land managers convened to discuss and share best restoration and management practices for
ephemeral wetlands to address at-risk species management (plant and animal) with a focus in the longleaf ecosystem in
the Coastal Plain. Carrie Sekerak, Deputy District Ranger, Ocala National Forest will present on the state of these
isolated wetlands, the current issues in isolated wetland management, and a snapshot of best practices being applied.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Clayton W. Hale, Mississippi State University

Joshua J. Granger, Mississippi State University

The number and severity of Gulf Coast hurricanes is increasing, resulting in intensified disturbance on coastal forest communities. Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides L.) grows no further than one hundred miles from the coast, making the species particularly vulnerable when hurricanes collide with the coast. Occurring primarily along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida, the species does form isolated stands along the Gulf Coast regions of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. In Mississippi and Alabama, the species is considered imperiled and vulnerable, respectively, according to NatureServ. Atlantic white-cedar is imperiled and is at risk of extirpation from the Gulf Coast by extreme weather events, altered disturbance regimes, changes in hydrology, and management. This study evaluates the recovery of an Atlantic white-cedar stand fourteen years post Hurricane Katrina. Pre- and post- Hurricane Katrina data were compared with recent data to determine how Gulf Coast stands of Atlantic white-cedar recover post disturbance. Understanding the long-term recovery of Atlantic white-cedar stands after a hurricane allows land managers and conservationist to more effectively manage these systems for the perpetuation of the species on the Gulf Coast.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Tara Littlefield, Senior Botanist/Plant Conservation Section Manager, Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves

It all started with a monitoring study of a declining White fringeless orchid (Platanthera integrilabia) population in 2007 at a State Nature Preserve in the Cumberland Plateau of Kentucky. This talk will outline this long term monitoring study of the white fringeless orchids and the associated seep communities and how they responded to management of the associated habitat. In addition, status survey trends of all WFO populations in Kentucky, partnerships with the forest service on recovery of populations on forest service lands, in situ and ex situ conservation strategies, as well as the importance of restoration and connection of the adjacent upland pine oak barrens will be discussed. Topics of partnerships, life history studies, seep and habitat management, seed and mycorrhizal banking, propagation, surveys and trends will be highlighted in this white fringeless orchid recovery and seep restoration talk.

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

Hannah Cook, M.S. Candidate, Biology, Western Carolina University

Stenanthium gramineum (Ker. Gawler) Morong, commonly known as “Eastern Featherbells” is a perennial herb that occurs in the Southern Appalachians and more broadly throughout the midwestern, southwestern and eastern U.S. Historically, this species has been under-studied, and is taxonomically unclear. Currently, two varieties are recognized, distinguished in part by habitat differences. Stenanthium gramineum var. gramineum is considered a rock-outcrop species throughout its large range of the southwestern, midwestern and eastern U.S., but also occurs on grassy balds and serpentine barrens of the Southern Appalachians. Stenanthium gramineum var. robustum (S. Watson) Fernald is said to be found in bogs and wet meadows; it is listed as endangered and threatened throughout its native range of the eastern U.S., causing need for special attention. A third variety, S. gramineum var. micranthum Fernald, is not currently recognized, but was described on the basis of its unique granitic dome rock outcrop habitat. It appears to be extremely rare, and seems to be exclusive to a small range within the eastern U.S. In sum, each of these varieties occupy unique, sensitive habitat, and potentially could be recognized as separate species, as they may display discrete differences in morphological characteristics. The goal of this project was to investigate morphological and ecological characteristics of the three S. gramineum varieties in order to clarify their taxonomy and aid conservation. During the summer and fall of 2019, I located seven flowering populations of two taxa (var. gramineum and var. robustum) in the Southern Appalachians, measured morphological and environmental characters in the field and collected samples for morphological, leaf anatomical and pollen analysis. To expand the dataset, I measured multiple morphological characters on herbarium specimens from throughout the ranges of each taxon. Multivariate analysis will be performed to determine whether two or more distinct entities can be discriminated based on these data. This study should clarify the taxonomic status of var. robustum and identify the most reliable characters used to define it, and should facilitate identification and conservation of this rare taxon.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Jennifer Possley, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Since coastal dunes have constantly shifting sands, tracking individual plants over many years can be challenging. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden began working with a federally endangered plant called Beach Clustervine in the late 1990s.  This long-lived species grows only in the coastal strand area of coastal dune communities in four of Florida's southeastern counties. The Beach Clustervine has lost much of its habitat to development. In 2000, we began tracking reproduction, growth, and survival on individual plants.  The first step to tracking individuals was to give each plant a unique identifier.  In the early days, we used a numbered metal tag on a wire “necklace,” and attached to the rootstock at the center of each plant.  We staked the tag on the surface with a u hook. This is a method that worked well for us in other ecosystems and, of course, in our botanic garden. One year after we reintroduced plants to the beach, we learned that this tag-and-necklace method was not working so well for the Beach Clustervine.  The species is a dune-builder, with strong roots that actually contract as the plant grows. These contractile roots can cause the plants—and the tags—to bury themselves. When we returned to monitor, our tags were sometimes several inches beneath the sand! We came up with a simple solution to the subterranean tag troubles. For Beach clustervine and other dune plants, instead of the tag-and-necklace we used wire to attach the numbered metal tag through the hole drilled in 18 inch PVC, and then sank the pole next to the Beach Clustervine’s rootstsock, about 9” deep.  The poles are easy for researchers to find, but aren’t too unsightly on the beach. Over time, the poles may become more deeply   buried as sand accretes, but they rarely disappear between visits, and we have the opportunity to raise the poles higher if needed.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Tuesday, April 7, 2020