SePPCon 2020

Dr. Jeremie Fant, Chicago Botanical Garden

Many land managers are aware of the value of genetic data for making important decisions for the management of rare species. In the ever-expanding world of Genomics, practitioners now have access to more comprehensive and accurate data. However, the speed of change can make it hard to keep up to date with the technology and to appreciate what it offers, not to mention how to access this technology. After hosting a workshop on genomics tools in Hawai`i, it become clear that there can be a large gap between needs and access. After the workshop, we surveyed the needs of Land Managers working on the restoration of Lobeliod species – one of the most endangered taxonomic groups in Hawai`i. The aim of the survey was to 1) identify common needs, 2) clarify what genomics can offer (potential and limitations), and 3) develop ideas for the best ways of moving forward. This presentation will cover the lesson learned from this survey and hopefully help other land managers identify how they can too incorporate genomics into their management plans.

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

Shawn C. McCourt, Sally M. Chambers, and Bruce K. Holst, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

The genus Harrisia (Cactaceae) comprises 20 narrowly endemic species of night-blooming cacti with two widely separated geographic ranges, including South America south of Amazonia, as well as the West Indies and southern Florida. Commonly known as aboriginal prickly-apple, H. aboriginum is a sprawling, multi–stemmed, columnar cactus endemic to ancient native American shell mounds, as well as coastal berms, coastal grasslands, and maritime hammocks in four counties along the southwest coast of Florida. This federally-listed species is in steep decline, primarily due to the development of beachfront property, invasive species dominance, and the erosion of coastal barrier islands. Some populations have disappeared entirely. Researchers at MSBG have been conducting an inventory of extant populations, assessing the health of each population, and determining what genetic variation (if any) occurs across the species’ geographic range. When possible, a small portion of seed has been collected for seed banking and to grow plants for the augmentation of shrinking populations and introduction to ecologically suitable sites situated above projected rises in sea level. To date, we have visited nine sites and collected detailed demographic data for 89 plants. Spines were collected from all 89 plants for DNA extraction and the testing and developing of microsatellite loci. Seeds from seven fruits were collected from three sites. Data presented represent the preliminary findings of our work, which has a focus on the importance of maintaining genetic diversity in ex situ collections for the purpose of rare plant conservation.

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

Noah Dell, Missouri Botanical Garden, Geoff Call, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Matthew A. Albrecht, Missouri Botanical Garden

Short’s bladderpod (Physaria globosa) was recently listed as federally endangered due to population decline across its range in Tennessee and Kentucky. However, little is known about the biology of the species and the potential mechanisms underlying range-wide declines. In short-lived mustards, seed dormancy and seed bank persistence can play an important role in regulating population dynamics and response to disturbance. To address the recovery plan objective of enhancing knowledge of Short’s Bladderpod to facilitate the development of scientifically sound management plans, we conducted laboratory experiments and a seed burial study to examine what environmental cues promote dormancy break and whether or not seeds form a persistent seed bank. A majority of seeds are in primary dormancy when dispersed in summer. Germination percentages are generally low, and long cold stratification times are needed to break dormancy. Seeds that were cold stratified at 2°C for 12 weeks and then incubated in a 20/10°C alternating temperature regime achieved the highest average germination percentage (24%). Warm stratification with or without alternating wet/dry cycles did not improve germination percentages over cold stratification treatments. However, constant imbibition in warm temperatures may have promoted viability loss, as germination percentages were lower than seeds kept at warm temperatures with alternating wet/dry cycles. Results from the seed burial study were consistent with those in laboratory experiments and indicate a cold stratification requirement for dormancy-break. Germination of buried seeds was greater in light than darkness and varied seasonally: 0% and 1% in dark and light conditions, respectively, in October following dispersal, 7% and 21% in January, 23% and 36% in March, 9% and 10% in June, and 4% and 8% in October in the year following dispersal. Seeds that afterripened in ambient indoor conditions for up to one year germinated to low (< 2%) percentages, indicating dry storage does not substitute for cold stratification in breaking seed dormancy. The germination niche of P. globosa can be defined by physiological dormancy, a long cold stratification period at low temperatures for dormancy break, formation of a persistent soil seed bank, and annual dormancy/non-dormancy cycling in buried seeds. Results from this study shed light on Short’s bladderpod regeneration biology and have implications for population management.

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

Brenda Molano-Flores, Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign, Sara Johnson, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign, & Janice Coons, Eastern Illinois University

Macbridea alba (Lamiaceae) is a federally threatened and state endangered perennial herbaceous mint. It is endemic to grassy pine flat woods and occupies a range of conditions from wet savannas and sand hills, to disturbed roadsides. Several studies have been conducted to assess genetic diversity, pollinators, breeding system, and seed germination in Macbridea alba. In addition, work associated with seed banking and flowering in relation to fire has only been published in abstract form making replicability difficult and most of this work has been limited to a few populations. Results from these studies point to: 1) low levels of genetic diversity, 2) need for pollinators such as Bombus spp to facilitate gene flow and fruit/seed production, 3) seed germination is high, 4) vivipary occurs, 5) seeds have limited long-term storage capacity and a lack of dormancy, 6) and flowering may decrease as time since fire increases. However, two areas that have not been fully explored are the reproductive success (i.e., fruit set, seed set, and germination) and pre-dispersal seed predation across multiple populations and their role in the long-term persistence of Macbridea alba populations. In 2019, seven Macbridea alba populations within Apalachicola National Forest were visited to better understand the reproductive ecology of the species. At each site, infructescences were collected and fruit set, seed set, herbivory, and pre-dispersal seed predation were documented. Also, information about vivipary, i.e. premature germination of the seed within the calyx, was gathered. Lastly, collected seeds were used to assess seed germination. Our preliminary results are showing variation among populations for all the metrics that have been measured. Based on these findings, we can better understand the life history strategies and reproductive ecology of this rare plant for conservation both in-situ and ex-situ in the future.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Dr. Vivian Negrón-Ortiz, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Ms. Melanie Kaeser, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

To protect and manage species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act requires the use of the best available science. Field-based studies on topics such as demography, reproductive biology, and seed ecology have provided sound conservation strategies for many imperiled plants. Unfortunately, understanding of relevant biology is still lacking for numerous rare species. Such biological information was lacking for Euphorbia telephioides, a threatened species primarily endemic to pineland flatwoods in the Florida Panhandle. This species is a perennial herbaceous plant that has suffered from the effects of habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation throughout the entire range of its distribution in Florida. This is the primary threat identified in the Recovery Plan of 1994, and remains the main threat to date. As part of a longterm study to understand the conservation requirements for the recovery of E. telephioides, three distinct populations were studied across the range of this species. We established one permanent plot in each population, and investigated size and reproduction, response to fire, and in situ seed germination and seedling survival from 2010-2014. Euphorbia telephioides plants are long-lived and survived fire by resprouting. This species is composed of males, females, and monoecious individuals with labile sex expression, a system that has the effect of ensuring outcrossing and thus contributing to genetic variability, but also guarantees pollination in the absence of cross-pollination. To minimize exposure to seasonally stressful conditions, both adults and seedlings exhibited obligate winter dormancy and facultative nonsynchronized summer dormancy as well as prolonged vegetative dormancy. Seeds survive < 1 year, denoting that there is no persistent soil seed bank that can be relied on to maintain populations in the face of environmental stochasticity. However, once seedlings are established in the soil, they resprout back after fire, favoring a hypothesis that seedlings contribute to E. telephioides persistence. In conclusion, E. telephioides displays traits that are part of a life history that is adaptive in the fire-prone habitats where this species occurs. Implications for in-situ and ex-situ conservation programs will be discussed.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Gavin Shotts, Department of Biological Sciences, Auburn University Bashira Chowdhury, Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology, Auburn University

Producing seeds is critical to maintaining sustainable populations and adaptive genetic diversity for the Southeast's threatened flowering plants. Seed production often depends on adequate pollination, which is a frequent concern for threatened plants, and addressing pollination problems will improve recovery outcomes. We present a framework for applying insights from pollination ecology to species recovery, specifically how patterns of pollen movement and dependency on animal diversity can inform recovery actions. We use available data on breeding traits, mating systems, and pollinator diversity to produce targeted goals achievable under common strategies like outplanting or in concert with insect conservation actions. To provide context for this framework, we review the pollination ecology of federal and state-listed endangered and threatened plants in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, highlighting three species (Apios priceana, Spigelia gentianoides, and Geum radiatum) that exemplify how floral and insect data can support recovery goals.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Kelly Bibb, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Geoff Call, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, David Lincicome, Natural Heritage Program Manager, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Andrea Bishop, Natural Heritage Program Botanist, TDEC - Retired

Effective partnerships guided by shared goals, such as recovery criteria, make it possible to recover endangered and threatened species of plants. For species listed under the Endangered Species Act (the Act), recovery plans provide measureable criteria for determining when they should be considered for delisting. These plans identify threats affecting listed species and describe actions that should be taken to understand the biology and ecology of those species and to reduce threats to the point that listing is no longer needed – i.e., to achieve recovery criteria. From the decision to list a species, to the development of a recovery plan, to the ultimate goal of delisting species, partnerships are vital for carrying out the purposes of the Act. The Service relies on recovery actions carried out by partners in State and Federal agencies, academia, private citizens, or – in the case of plants – botanical gardens. We also rely on data to demonstrate the effectiveness of those recovery efforts. The importance of reliable data in bearing out the effectiveness of recovery efforts cannot be overstated. The Service publishes rules to delist or reclassify species only after multiple levels of review, beginning in our field offices and ending with our headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Biologists in Service field offices rely on data from our partners in preparing compelling rules that withstand careful scrutiny. Section 6 of the Act is titled Cooperation with the States, and cooperation between the Service, State conservation agencies, and many other partners has been a key factor in Tennessee’s plant conservation successes. Tennessee’s first federally listed plant, Echinacea tennesseensis, was listed as endangered in 1979. The state currently has 21 federally listed species of plants. Over the years there have been significant conservation successes. In 2002, Scutellaria montana was down-listed. In 2005 Helianthus ergertii was successfully recovered followed by the recovery of E. tennesseensis in 2011, 32 years after it was first listed. Plant conservation and recovery does not occur in a vacuum, especially when endangered and threatened species are at stake. In the early years of Tennessee’s Section 6 plant recovery program much of the work focused on recovery of E. tennesseensis, despite minimal coordination with the Service. During this time, Tennessee’s botanists forged partnerships with a community of plant conservationists in academia, NGOs, Federal agencies, and botanical gardens. By 1998 a closer relationship had developed between the local Service staff and the state botanists conducting recovery work, with the Service becoming a more active partner in Tennessee’s plant conservation community. Annual recovery coordination meetings between the Service and the state were more productively guiding conservation efforts. About the same time the state’s Natural Areas Program was rapidly building on its own successes in protecting significant conservation lands. The inertia gained from the two programs and close working relationship between the Service and the state led to the recovery successes in the 2000’s. As a result another endangered species is close to being considered for recovery. Still more plant conservation work remains and through conservation networking, shared goals and priorities, and leveraged resources a broad-based partnership is emerging in Tennessee to effectively conserve all of the state’s imperiled plants.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Anna Lucio, Kentucky Department of Agriculture

The annual American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) (ginseng) harvest is rooted with deep cultural and economic value in communities not often touched with conventional agriculture programs. Authorized under Kentucky statute and regulation, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture administrates the ginseng program for Kentucky. The requirements for this program come from necessity in order to have legal trade access on the international market as a species listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which the United States has ratified as part of 50 CFR Part 23. The general assembly established Kentucky’s program in 1982 with the latest updates in 2010. This presentation will outline the management of the current Kentucky program in terms of the processes in place to ensure a future ginseng harvest.

Date Recorded: 
Tuesday, March 3, 2020