Monitoring

Heather E. Schneider, Sean A. Carson, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Documenting the abundance and distribution of rare plants is a critical first step in the the conservation of wild populations. The methods used to map plants on the landscape have changed dramatically over time. Biologists have progressed from providing locality descriptions and marking plant locations on maps by hand, to using handheld GPS units, to the modern-day use of tablets and smart phones. Depending on the goals of a project, plants may be mapped using points, polygons and lines, or sometimes a combination of features, with varying degrees of accuracy. All of these variables can make it difficult to compare population dynamics over time. How can we determine wither a population really expanded or contracted, versus when it appears that way based on discrepancies in mapping technique or GPS accuracy? In an attempt to standardize rare plant mapping efforts on the Channel Islands, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden worked with a group of collaborators to adapt and implement mapping protocols developed by Wildlands Conservation Science using ESRI’s Collector Application and a static spatial grid system. In 2019, we mapped the endangered Santa Cruz Island Dudleya (Dudleya nesiotica) using the protocols that we developed. Our results suggest that the abundance and extent of Santa Cruz Island Dudleya has increased since the last mapping effort in 2006, but we also laid the groundwork for more accurate comparisons in the future. The data generated using this method allow surveyors to map rare plants using consistent protocols that will improve the accuracy of comparisons of spatial distribution and abundance over time. While we are still fine-tuning our protocols and perfecting our methodology, this represents a significant step in improving data collection and analysis for rare plant surveys and monitoring.

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

Stacy Anderson, Joe Davitt, Katie Heineman, David Hogan, Joyce Maschinski, and Tobin Weatherson, San Diego Zoo Global

Declining small populations may be supported through augmentation. To aid the smallest of five populations of the tiny endangered succulent, Dudleya brevifolia, The Chaparral Lands Conservancy approached the San Diego Zoo Global Plant Conservation team to augment the smallest population located on delicate sandstone bluffs of the Torrey Pines State Reserve Extension in Del Mar. On January 19, 2017, we germinated seed and grew plants in our nursery to learn about propagation needs. On January 4, 2019, we introduced 46 corms into two predesignated transect plots on two areas near the small extant population. Prior to planting, we cleaned each corm of potting soil, measured its length, assigned a unique id, and randomly designated it to a plot. On the installation day, we drilled holes in the sandstone to accommodate the corms, backfilled each with native soil, and watered. We noted the location of each introduced corm with a small nail and recorded x,y coordinates and GPS location using a sub-meter GPS. Later we buried 23 mm HDX pit tags next to the corms to ensure long-term location of each individual. Following installation, we monitored the status of each corm every two weeks. Thus far, we have noted aboveground growth of 8 individuals. However, we cannot determine if the corms are actively growing underground. We will continue to monitor the phenology of the corms this spring though it is possible that introduced corms are establishing underground and will not initiate aboveground growth until next spring.

Date Recorded: 
Friday, May 3, 2019

Matthew Albrecht, Missouri Botanical Garden

Monitoring is a central component of reintroduction programs, but often receives less attention from practitioners than the preparation or implementation phases of a project. A well-designed monitoring program can detect changes in the environment over time, identify new threats that emerge at the reintroduction site, determine drivers of growth rates in reintroduced populations, and inform adaptive management. This presentation highlights the ten key components of a well-designed monitoring program based on the CPC's Best Plant Conservation Practices.  Topics discussed includes monitoring objectives and designs for short- and long-lived plant species, threat detection, evaluating fecundity and dispersal, comparisons with wild reference populations, types of data analyses, and best-practices for data management and sharing.

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Date Recorded: 
Friday, May 3, 2019

Kristin Haskins and Sheila Murray,The Arboretum at Flagstaff

In 2013, The Arboretum at Flagstaff partnered with the Center for Plant Conservation and the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico to examine conservation concerns of Chihuahua scurfpea (Pediomelum pentaphyllum), a tuber-forming legume. Our primary objective was to determine any changes in population size. In 2015, we established two demography study plots representing two different populations. The ability to retract aboveground tissues underneath the soil is a common drought adaptation found in desert-dwelling species. We were challenged in establishing these plots by the ephemeral nature of aboveground presence of biomass needed to identify the species. The timing of plot site selection coincided with a winter that received average to above average precipitation, improving the likelihood of scurfpea plant emergence, and insuring that plots were indeed placed to capture multiple individuals. Furthermore, the duration of annual monitoring visits was set at 6-years to capture the minimum required 3-years of data for determining population projections, despite potentially uncooperative weather patterns. We recently collected our 5th year of data. Upon completion, these data will be analyzed and suggestions shared with land managers at the BLM in New Mexico and Arizona.

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Date Recorded: 
Friday, May 3, 2019

Kay Havens, Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden’s Negaunee Institute for Plant Conservation and Science supports centers of excellence in conservation practice, science, and training, with an emphasis on understudied species with high conservation need. The research focuses primarily on preventing plant extinction, promoting plant diversity, and understanding plant interactions. Actions and outreach include advocacy, conservation synthesis, best practices for restoration and management, and partnerships with stewards and other stakeholders. Capacity-building efforts include graduate programs, internships, and citizen science.

Pitcher’s Thistle, Cirsium pitcheri T. & G. (Asteraceae), is a federally endangered species found on the dunes around Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The Institute has worked with C. pitcheri on a number of fronts for 20+ years: seed banking, reintroduction, population trends, pest biocontrol, and understanding its role in the pollination network. It is a key resource for pollinators, with an extended blooming season peaking in July. Investigators recorded pollinators visiting the plant species in 40 plots over the course of a summer. They found that C. pitcheri had the most visits of any of the native dune plants observed and the greatest number of pollinator species. It was found to be a keystone species during a period of time when few other plant species were blooming in the sand dune community.

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Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 2, 2019

Daniella DeRose, Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plants of Concern (POC) program is a collaboration between citizen scientists, natural resource managers, and researchers to collect data on rare plant populations in northeastern Illinois. The primary goal is to identify best conservation practices, while creating awareness and providing education on why conservation matters. POC engages citizen scientists, collects census data on rare plant populations—including identifying invasive species, threats, and evidence of management—and provides data to land managers. Data generated by POC inform the Illinois rare species listing process and are used by land managers to understand population trends and prioritize activities. Program monitors also serve as ecological site stewards. POC has monitored 292 species and 2453 populations, trained 953 volunteers, and worked with 135 landowners as of December 2018. POC trains its citizen scientists to collect standardized data. Partners include volunteer groups, government agencies, private landowners, and researchers.

POC is learning how management impacts rare species. Hill’s thistle, Cirsium hillii, is a habitat specialist threatened by habitat loss and lack of management. Although monitoring and management data suggested that burning and brush removal increase population size, in-depth study revealed a discrepancy between census size and effective population size. POC founder Susanne Masi led level 2 monitoring efforts looking at demography of C. hillii. CBG scientist Jeremie Fant & MS students Abigail White and Nora Gavin-Smyth found that most populations are highly clonal. Self-incompatibility, low flowering rates, and lack of compatible mates lead to low/no seed set, but genetic augmentation (introduced pollen) is able to reduce mate limitation. Based on these results, POC modified its monitoring protocol for C. hillii, introducing a minimum size for identifying individuals. CBG scientist Jacob Zeldin developed new micropropagation techniques that allow for the rapid and controlled cloning of individual C. hillii genotypes year-round with minimal space and materials. Land managers are now interested in using genetic augmentation for this species, sharing genetic material between sites.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 2, 2019

Are others collecting demographic data from reintroduced populations?

I'm interested in comparing reintroduced populations to wild populations of the same species to assess reintroction "success" relative to wild sites.  Are others collecting this kind of data?

Bill Brumback (New England Wildflower Society) and Jay O’Neil (Smithsonian Experimental Research Center)

Seeds of terrestrial orchid species are small and essentially without food reserves, but data on the longevity in the wild of seed of most orchid species is lacking. In October 2003, packets containing seeds of the Federally Threatened orchid, Isotria medeoloides, small whorled pogonia, were buried within a population of this species in New Hampshire. Seeds packets were removed from the soil for testing in 2007 and again in 2017. Seeds were examined for viable embryos and also tested with Triphenyltetrazolium chloride (TTC) for viability. Results showed that in 2007 over 50% of the seeds remained viable, and by 2017, more than 13 years after burial, the number had only dropped to 42%. There was no evidence of germination or mycorrhizal association in the buried seeds. These results indicate the potential for a persistent soil seedbank for this orchid species, despite its minute seeds. Protocols for ex situ seed banking of many terrestrial orchids have yet to be developed, but in situ soil seedbank experiments with orchid seeds can give clues to the survival potential of a population in the wild.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 3, 2018

Jim Locklear, Lauritzen Gardens

Research into the biology and conservation needs of an at-risk plant species can lead to better understanding of the plant community that supports the species and inform ecosystem scale conservation efforts. This has been the experience of Lauritzen Gardens in working with Dalea cylindriceps (Fabaceae), a G3 species native to the western Great Plains. Our field survey for this rare prairie clover revealed a strong association with sandsage prairie, a shrub-steppe community that is of conservation concern in five states in the Great Plains. Given the need to understand the dynamics of this vegetation, we are now engaged in an initiative to identify the processes and patterns that sustain the ecological health and integrity of sandsage prairie. We recently conducted a multi-species (14 taxa) rare plant survey in the sandsage region of Nebraska and this year will undertake a reconnaissance survey of sandsage prairie throughout its range in the Great Plains. This work will result in the first comprehensive publication on the ecology and floristic composition of sandsage prairie and will hopefully yield insights that will inform conservation management practices.

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Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 3, 2018

Philip Gonsiska, Whitney Costner, Cheryl Peterson, Bok Tower Gardens

Warea amplexifolia (Clasping Warea) (Brassicaceae) is an annual endemic to sandhill habitat in the northern third of the Lake Wales Ridge in central Florida. It typically germinates between February and early May and flowers from August through October. The main threats to W. amplexifolia are development and lack of land management. In 2000, there were fewer than 20 populations; only ten small populations may still exist. The Rare Plant Conservation Program at Bok Tower Gardens monitors seven reintroduction/augmentation sites for this species. One of these is in a natural area that is part of Mountain Lake, a gated community immediately adjacent to the Gardens. Mountain Lake is the site of a naturally-occurring population, seeds from which have been used in five subsequent outplantings there between 2011 and 2017. The site received little management until 2016, when trees and brush were cleared, and part of the site was burned. In spring of 2017, 418 W. amplexifolia plants were added, along with plants of several other native associated species. Although this project is ongoing, preliminary qualitative comparisons with an introduction at Lake Louisa State Park suggest that W. amplexifolia is more successful when introduced into habitats that already have established canopy and groundcover. If these observations are supported by the data, this information will be used to guide future introduction efforts.

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Date Recorded: 
Friday, May 4, 2018