Denver Botanic Gardens

Alex Seglias, Denver Botanic Gardens

Plant biodiversity is being lost at an accelerated rate. To conserve native plants, many institutions are turning towards ex situ conservation methods, such as storage in seed banks. However, not all seeds are able to survive in seed bank conditions or they may be short-lived. Alpine species in Italy and Australia have been shown to lose viability at a quicker rate in seed banks compared to low-elevation species. To understand if alpine species from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado exhibit this same pattern, I used accelerated ageing experiments to simulate storage in a seed bank and expedite loss of viability. Ten samples of 50 seeds for four species (Castilleja puberula, Heterotheca pumila, Physaria alpina, and Saussurea weberi) were rehydrated in a dark incubator at 20°C and 47% humidity for two weeks. Following rehydration, the seeds were placed in a drying oven at 45°C and 60% humidity to age the seeds at various intervals of time. Following the ageing process, the seeds were placed into previously determined germination conditions (stratification followed by incubation at 20/10°C for one month). All species had P50 (time to 50% germination) values of <13.7 days, which is the threshold to consider a species short-lived in seed banks. These results suggest that we can’t haphazardly store seeds and assume that all species will survive for decades in seed banks. Rather, we need to assess what environmental and evolutionary conditions might preclude a species from being long-lived in storage and determine measures to mitigate loss of viability over time.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Friday, October 9, 2020

Michelle DePrenger-Levin, Denver Botanic Gardens; Michael Kunz, North Carolina Botanical Garden; Emily Coffey, Atlanta Botanic Garden; Tom Kaye, Institute for Applied Ecology; Anna Lampei Bucharová, Institute of Landscape Ecology (ILÖK), University of Münster

Seed collection is a vital conservation method used to ensure global food security by maintaining a source of genetic diversity in food crops and prevent the loss of biodiversity from natural or anthropogenic events that cause the extirpation of small populations. The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation facilitates global and national level plant conservation strategies including a target of collecting at least 75% of the threatened plant species in ex-situ collections with at least 20% being available for recovery and restoration. Local participation to reach this goal is facilitated by the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC). However, removing seed from small populations can increase extinction risk for species of conservation concern. Current restrictions on seed harvest meant to limit risk to rare species is based on stochastic simulations of a few perennial species with limited demographic data. Our work examines the universality of this threshold across lifespans (annuals to long-lived perennials). We account for variation in vital rate responses by using many transition matrices and adding predictions of worsening conditions due to climate change and human impacts by simulating different harvesting practices in years with high vs. low seed production.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, October 8, 2020

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

Dr. Jennifer Ramp Neale, Director of Research and Conservation, Denver Botanic Garden 

The primary objective of research at Denver Botanic Gardens is the conservation, preservation, and documentation of native Colorado flora by serving as an active center of biodiversity research for the Southern Rocky Mountain region. In order to fill a gap in botanical expertise in the region, the Gardens launched a conservation genetic program in 2009. Through an integrated approach we have assessed population genetic diversity levels and patterns in several endangered plant species. We are now expanding our skill set through staffing, collaboration, and student mentorship. Staying on top of current methodology while providing results to funding agencies in a timely manner has its challenges that we are working to address in creative ways.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Jennifer Ramp Neale, Denver Botanic Gardens

Alpine plants are at risk of population decline and/or extinction due to climate change. Understanding these plants and the environments in which they survive and thrive involves a multi-tiered approach including in-situ and ex-situ efforts. At Denver Botanic Gardens we are working to collect and study seed of alpine species for ex-situ conservation. Expanding our impact on conservation of alpine habitats, we have partnered with Betty Ford Alpine Gardens to lead the development of a North American Botanic Garden Strategy for Alpine Plant Conservation. Modeled after the North American Botanic Garden Strategy for Plant Conservation and the larger Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, the four objectives and twelve targets presented here will guide collaborative efforts to document, study, and ultimately conserve our fragile North American alpine habitats.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 2, 2019

Jennifer Neale, Denver Botanic Gardens

As scientific programs at Denver Botanic Gardens continue to grow we are working to standardize data collection across all projects to enhance and improve data utility. We have developed uniform protocols for documenting biodiversity for all studies whether they regard demographic studies, ecological monitoring, seed conservation, or floristic surveys. Collection of specimens and associated tissue samples has been incorporated into all studies, along with a methodical approach for tracking field photography, to ensure robustness, consistency, and cross-application of data. With the implementation of these new protocols we are readily able to share data with larger platforms such as the Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN), Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio), and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Friday, May 4, 2018