USFWS

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

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

Dr. Carlos Ramirez-Reyes1, D. Todd Jones-Farrand3, Garret Street1,2, Francisco Vilella4, Kristine O. Evans 1,2

1. Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mississippi State University

2. Quantitative Ecology & Spatial Technologies Laboratory, Mississippi State University

3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 302 Natural Resources, University of Missouri 4. U.S. Geological Survey, Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Effective conservation planning requires reliable information on the distribution of species, which is often incomplete due to limited availability of data. Species distribution models (SDMs) and associated tools have proliferated in the past decades and have proven valuable in evaluating suitability and critical habitat for species. However, conservation practitioners have not fully adopted SDMs to inform surveys and other monitoring efforts. Instead, most efforts rely on expert knowledge and other traditional methods to locate extant populations. In particular, the Species Status Assessment (SSA) initiative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would benefit from incorporating SDM approaches to facilitate conservation decisions. Here, we describe an SDM approach for at-risk species that could be considered for SSA and similar species monitoring efforts. We applied 4 modeling techniques (generalized additive, maximum entropy, generalized boosted, and weighted ensemble) to recent monitoring data for 4 at-risk plant species (Scutellaria ocmulgee, Balduina atropurpurea, Rhynchospora crinipes and Torreya taxifolia) in the Southeastern U.S. Our results showed that ensemble distribution models reduced uncertainty caused by differences among modeling techniques and improved the predictive accuracy of fitted models. These models highlight areas with high habitat suitability for a particular species and therefore candidates for additional monitoring and survey efforts. We suggest that this approach could be adopted into the SSA framework to develop more robust and efficient assessments of at-risk species.

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. Michele Elmore, US Fish & Wildlife Service Lindsay Dombroskie, Texas A & M University, Natural Resources Institute

Georgia rockcress (Arabis georgiana Harper) is a short-lived perennial plant of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) endemic to Alabama and Georgia. In 2014, this species was listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act due to ongoing threats from development that either destroys or degrades habitat, and facilitates the invasion of nonnative species. The Service is currently conducting a 5-Year Status Review of the species and will develop a formal Recovery Plan. To support the 5-Year Status Review and development of the Recovery Plan a Species Status Assessment (SSA) was conducted. The SSA considers what the species needs to maintain longterm viability by characterizing the status of the species in terms of its resiliency, redundancy, and representation (together the 3Rs). Population resiliency was measured by population size, and habitat suitability, degradation and protection. Species redundancy and representation was measured by the number of populations and how they are distributed across genetic groups. In situ safeguarding has the potential to contribute to all 3Rs via population augmentations, reintroductions, and introductions. Safeguarding projects by the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance has preserved genetic stock from several Georgia populations which has contributed to multiple experimental in situ safeguarding efforts to further conserve the species. Success of these in situ conservation efforts, when combined with habitat protection and management, may prove to be essential to prevent further decline of the species in the wild and ultimately lead to recovery (delisting) of the species. We will discuss several future scenarios from the SSA that included protection, management and in situ safeguarding. We will explore next steps that include development of a range-wide Georgia rockcress Recovery Plan and recovery strategy where we consider how to move from experimental in situ safeguarding to species recovery.

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

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

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

From the SePPCon 2020 conference, three inspiring videos:

The Southeastern Grasslands Initiative Dr. Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative Featuring Dwayne Estes, SGI Director, and Theo Witsell, SGI Chief Ecologist. Filmed and edited by Pamela Pasco.

This 15-minute video takes you on a journey across the Southeast and through time, to learn more about the habitats that have been largely erased from society’s collective memory: the incredibly diverse native grasslands of the Southeastern United States. Be introduced to the concept of an “old growth grassland,” characterized by hundreds of native grasses, sedges, wildflowers, and shrubs, as well as dozens of species of birds and countless insects. You’ll learn why the myth of the squirrel that could travel from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River is just that: a myth that has been debunked by recent ecological and historical research. Get introduced to the complicated and diverse mosaic of forests, woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands that once existed across the South. You’ll discover that while Southern grasslands may not be as vast as their Midwestern cousins, what they lack in size is made up for by their astounding diversity. These include treeless prairies, open oak woodlands and pine savannas, rocky glades, high elevation grass balds in the Southern Blue Ridge, and open wet meadows, fens and bogs. Learn about the importance of conservative grassland species, such as the May Prairie Aster, discovered in 2008, which occurs only in a single 10-acre prairie remnant and nowhere else in the world. These conservative species can only grow in high quality grasslands, indicating sites of conservation value. Discover the grasslands that are hidden “in plain sight” throughout the Southeast, and find out the surprising sites on the landscape that still host many grassland plants and pollinators such as the Monarch butterfly.  Witness an unplanned grassland loss that occurred in real time during filming of this video, and learn why our native grassland remnants of just 1 to 20 acres are critical–not only as habitat for rare species such as the Northern Bobwhite-- but also to any hope we have of restoring our native grassland heritage. You’ll see that native grasslands in the Southeast are still yielding amazing discoveries of new plant and animal species each year. Find out the surprising ways in which agricultural practices have been kind to our grasslands, and be assured that there is cause for hope.

Longleaf for the Long Run Carol Denhof, President, Longleaf Alliance

The Longleaf Pine was once the dominant tree species in the southern United States, covering over 90 million acres from Virginia to Texas. Over the last 400 years, this species’ abundance has decreased due to non-sustainable timber harvesting, clearing of land for agriculture and development, and exclusion of fire. However, the overall decline of this ecosystem has been halted due to a coordinated effort by landowners and partners in the southeast to restore this iconic Southern forest that is among the most biologically diverse habitats in North America. The Longleaf Alliance (LLA) works in partnership with private landowners, federal and state agencies, other NGOs, and industry to guide the restoration, stewardship, and conservation of the longleaf pine ecosystem. This outreach video, produced by Abel Klainbaum for LLA, is intended to raise awareness of this unique native ecosystem in the general public. The information presented, through the shared perspectives of four active members of the longleaf community

Piedmont Prairie Initiative Rua Mordicai, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Science Applications Rickie White, Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association Carrie Radcliffe, Atlanta Botanical Garden Jim Affolter, State Botanical Garden of Georgia Jennifer Ceska, State Botanical Garden of Georgia Dr. Johnny Randall, North Carolina Botanical Garden Alan Weakley, North Carolina Botanical Garden Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative Julie Tuttle, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

The Piedmont is home to one of the fastest-growing urban megaregions in the country, stretching from Raleigh-Durham to Atlanta and into Birmingham, AL. Historically, much of the region was covered in grasslands, including pine-oak savannas and open treeless prairies, maintained by frequent fire and grazing by bison and elk. Most Piedmont residents don’t know that the thick upland forests they see today were very different before European arrival. This is one of the major barriers to bringing grasslands back to the region. The Piedmont Prairie Partnership is a group of non-profit, state, and federal agencies working to bring back Piedmont Prairies in an area from Virginia down to Alabama. Late in 2019 to early 2020, the partnership created two videos to help tell the story of the past, present, and future of prairies in the Piedmont.

Date Recorded: 
Monday, March 2, 2020