rare species

Alexandra Seglias (Denver Botanic Gardens)

Nicola Ripley (Betty Ford Alpine Gardens)

Brittany Roberts Marshall (Betty Ford Alpine Gardens)

 

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Alpine ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The Denver Botanic Gardens are seeking to protect rare species from these regions, banking seeds from multiple Alpine populations by maternal line. However, collecting seed from these remote areas comes with multiple challenges. Seed production is dependent on the previous year's winter weather, there is a short window for flowering and seed setting, the phenology changes rapidly, and many sites are difficult to reach.
After gathering seed, researchers at Denver Botanic Gardens perform germination trials and grow seedlings to be reintroduced. Plants are also added to the living collections at Denver Botanic Garden and the Betty Ford Alpine Botanic Gardens to further preserve these rare species.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 21, 2020

Brenda L. Wicchman, North Carolina Natural Heritage Program

Chris Stoehrel U.S. Forest Service, Cherokee National Forest

Caitlin Elam Tennessee Natural Heritage Program, Division of Natural Areas

Some of the rarest wetlands in the southeastern United States are the non-alluvial wetlands of the Blue Ridge region. Many of these wetlands are current conservation areas or priorities and these wetlands, colloquially known as bogs, harbor many rare and endemic plant species as well as globally rare plant communities. Targets for conservation priority have traditionally been the lower reaches of these systems which contain the concentrated rare species occurrences, while not considering the sources of hydrology, the headwaters. We will discuss a non-profit, federal, and state partnership approach to enhancing the resiliency of these systems through holistic ecosystem protection in North Carolina and Tennessee.

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

Tara Littlefield and Tony Romano, Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves

Roadsides are increasingly recognized for their potential importance in conservation planning. Roadsides are generally less threatened by development than surrounding areas and are maintained in an open condition. Because of these factors, roadsides in Kentucky are one of the few areas that contain remnant native grassland communities. These roadside grasslands often support rare plant species and provide important habitat for pollinating insects including monarch butterflies and native bees. If these resources are not identified and incorporated into management plans, they can be highly vulnerable to harmful management actions and rapidly degrade. Since 2015, the Office of Kentucky Native Preserves (OKNP) and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) have worked collaboratively on several plant conservation projects including natural areas acquisition, restoration and planting recommendations, seed collection, and management coordination for several high quality roadside grasslands. In 2019, OKNP, in partnership with KYTC and Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF), updated inventories of remnant grasslands and rare plants along roads in the national forest. To expand on these surveys, OKNP partnered with the Kentucky Native Plant society to create an iNaturalist citizen scientist project where volunteers can contribute their observations of roadside habitats in the national forest. These projects were important for building positive collaboration between ONKP and KYTC, and we are now implementing a broader Pollinator Conservation Strategy to address the conservation needs along our roadsides. In 2020, OKNP is initiating a 5-year statewide survey of Kentucky’s roadsides to establish a baseline of data. This program will document remnant natural communities, rare plants, and high quality pollinator habitat. These surveys will inform coordination with KYTC districts and help prioritize conservation and management of important roadside habitats. This program will develop trainings for KYTC staff and incorporate citizen scientists to expand our reach. We still have a lot of hurdles to cross for roadside plant and pollinator conservation, but partnerships and communication is possible and can provide a path towards achieving conservation goals.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Sujai Veeramachaneni (GDOT), Felicity Davis (GDOT), Chris Goodson (GDOT), Anna Yellin (WRD), Meg Hedeen (GDOT), Carrie Keogh (Emory University)

Protected plant species that prefer open and forest edge habitats can find unexpected homes in regularly maintained transportation rights-of-way. Avoidance and minimization of these resources is a critical goal for the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) during design and construction of proposed transportation projects. When protected plant surveys identify protected plant populations in rights-of-way which can be avoided by proposed projects, GDOT designates an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) to be signed and maintained in perpetuity. While designating ESAs is not a new practice, GDOT desired a consistent tracking system for, sometimes historic, ESA records. Only a couple known ESA sites had dedicated management plans, another challenge for conservation of these important plant populations. Starting in 2018, GDOT partnered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources – Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) and Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), as well as Emory University, to assess current practices and develop a plan for tracking and managing ESA sites across Georgia. Tracking, management and recovery development efforts involved contributions from and coordination between many parties both external and internal to GDOT. Existing practices and proposals for improvement were developed by Emory University students participating in a service learning course. WRD provided element occurrence data that intersect existing rights-of-way, while existing ESA locations continue to be identified by GDOT District personnel and consultants surveying for proposed transportation projects. A template ESA management plan was developed to help record site information for tracking and recovery efforts, including site-specific management actions that will be easily accessible for GDOT District Maintenance personnel. Development of this tracking and maintenance system is on-going, but the future of rare plant recovery in roadway rights-of-way seems bright.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 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