NatureServe

Anne Frances, NatureServe; Amanda Treher, NatureServe;
Wesley Knapp, North Carolina Natural Heritage Program

Plants that occur in only one to few locations globally are most at-risk of extinction. Research on the extinct plants of North America shows that 64% of extinct plants were known from one site. Single site endemics generally face higher threats than plants known from many locations--including demographic stochasticity (from small population sizes) to the risk that one event can affect the entire global population. The first step in preventing the extinction of single site endemics is to identify which taxa are truly known from such a restricted geography. Using NatureServe's Element Occurrence data on rare plants, we developed a preliminary list of 109 plant taxa known from very few locations. The list needs to be analyzed to determine which taxa are taxonomically valid, and of those, which are actually single site endemics. This presentation will outline the importance of conserving single site endemics, the steps and challenges to vetting the list, and the percentage of single site endemics that are currently held in ex situ collections and protected under the US Endangered Species Act. The presentation will conclude with ideas on how to share data to better protect these species.

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

Dr. Johnny Randall, North Carolina Botanical Garden

The infamous Venus flytrap, Dionaea muscipula, found across North Carolina and into South Carolina, has been seen to be declining in recent years. It is currently under review for federal listing, is ranked G2 on NatureServe, and considered vulnerable by RedList. Threats to this charismatic plant include poaching, trampling, and changes in fire and hydrology. Dr. Randall of the North Carolina Botanical Garden is conducting a double-pronged conservation effort, collecting and banking seeds by maternal line, and doing genetic analysis across the populations. Results from the genetic data suggest four distinct clusters that closely match phylogeographic areas.

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

Wesley M. Knapp, North Carolina Natural Heritage Program

Preventing extinction is the lowest bar for conservation success we can set and the roll of ex situ conservation efforts in preventing extinction is becoming more significant. Continued work to document the extinct plants of North America north of Mexico has resulted in the discovery that up to 7 plants are extinct in the wild (EW). While these extinct plant taxa have no naturally occurring populations, they are still found in ex situ collections at botanical gardens. These collections may have issues in having full conservation value. Many collections were taken from few or single individuals and not necessarily intended to prevent the extinction of a species, but now represent the last known individuals. Some species reported as present in seed banks or botanical gardens are incorrectly identified. Additionally, botanical gardens having the last known individuals of a species are not necessarily aware of the significance of these collections. Evidence suggests a species has gone extinct while at a botanical garden because the specimen was destroyed before the significance of the collection was recognized. A prioritization of ex situ conservation efforts, using the best data is critical to prevent future extinction events. Single site global endemics or species of extremely narrow geographic distributions are the most susceptible to extinction. I will discuss a collaboration with NatureServe to identify global single site endemics that we hope will help prioritize seed banking and ex situ collections for these species following best practices to ensure quality/genetic diversity of collections. Additionally, an ongoing collaboration with the North Carolina Botanical Garden to prioritize the rarest plants in North Carolina for ex situ conservation efforts has already seen significant results.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Dr. James Luken, College of Science, Coastal Carolina University

Marginal land now devoted to growing harvested crops may be better suited to other land uses such as biodiversity enhancement and carbon sequestration. However, farmers are not encouraged to explore the development of these opportunities due largely to subsidized federal crop insurance (FCI). This study examined FCI outcomes from 2013- 2017 in 69 Coastal Plain counties of North Carolina and South Carolina. The loss ratio (total crop indemnities paid/total insurance premiums paid) was used to identify 21 counties with high-risk agriculture. Then an index of conservation opportunity was calculated for each county using the loss ratio, insurance subsidy and an estimate of natural capital (i.e., renewable or nonrenewable natural resources the can provide benefits to humans). Where marginal farmland is surrounded by forest and natural capital is high, the index will identify counties currently supported by FCI that more quickly and completely incorporate the full range of ecological dynamics and biological diversity when farming is abandoned. The top 10 counties for conservation opportunity, with the exceptions of Scotland County, NC and Marion County, SC., were located in the outer Coastal Plain or coastal zone where natural capital is high. Transitioning land use from harvested crops to biodiversity enhancement or carbon sequestration will require bold changes in agricultural policies and subsidies so that income streams to farmers are maintained while novel ecological targets are met.

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

Christina Carrero, The Morton Arboretum, Emily Coffey, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Patrick Griffith, Montgomery Botanical Center

A 2019 study by Griffith, et al. showed that gardens must collaborate to conserve genetic diversity, especially for exceptional species whose seeds cannot be properly seed banked. This process of capturing the genetic diversity of exceptional species in ex situ collections requires a tailored strategy for each species, emphasizing the need for a coordinated effort by botanic gardens. By working through networked consortia, botanic gardens can implement innovative solutions to safeguard these species in a changing world. We highlight a new initiative to conserve genetic diversity of exceptional species through a coordinated effort of gardens, using oak, magnolia, maple, and cycad consortia as case-studies. We outline the challenges and opportunities of conserving exceptional species within these distinct plant groups, providing solutions and recommendations that can guide collection efforts for other groups.The audience will gain a better understanding of exceptional plant species, conservation challenges, and innovative solutions. Participants will be provided with the tools and framework to join or create a consortium as a way to contribute to the conservation efforts of threatened exceptional plants. Our hope is that these presentations will gain new consortium members, growing a diverse, coordinated network of institutions and experts who will advance our goal in preventing the extinction of the world’s exceptional species. Ultimately, by working through networked consortia, the sum of our efforts is greater than its parts.

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

Clayton Meredith, ABQ Bio-Park

In a partnership between the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC), NatureServe, and ABQ BioPark, conservation status assessments and comprehensive species action plans are being developed for select medicinal plant taxa. This effort is part of a larger collaboration between zoos, gardens, and aquaria and the IUCN SSC, which aims to build a more robust Red List, thereby strengthening the first component in the Assess-Plan-Act model. A recent assessment of the conservation status of the genus Trillium in North America demonstrates the potential outcomes of such partnerships and the role public gardens can play in conservation initiatives. In 2019 this collaborative effort sought to generate IUCN Red List assessments, update NatureServe global ranks, and develop a comprehensive conservation plan for the genus Trillium. Through the assessment process, major threats to the genus and areas where additional research is needed were identified. Overabundance of white-tailed deer and habitat degradation caused by feral pigs are the most pervasive threats to the genus, but minor threats were identified at a regional scale which warrant investigation in other parts of the genus’ range. The southern Appalachian region is the center of Trillium diversity and is also at the confluence of several major threats to the genus. However, threats can be further distinguished based on habitat type and impact with respect to reproductive biology, which allows for targeted conservation initiatives. This approach maximizes the efficiency of these plans and allows for resources to be used effectively to promote plant conservation. This supra-species level approach has the potential to streamline conservation initiatives and build partnerships for large scale programs reducing extinction risk for large numbers of species simultaneously.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Tuesday, March 3, 2020