Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Heather Schneider, Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens

There are times when drying and storing seeds is not an option for the conservation of a plant species. This might be because the seeds cannot survive the freezing process, or maybe because the species no longer produces seeds in the wild. Researchers at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden have been working with one such species, the Federally endangered Island Barberry, which no longer reproduces well naturally. While once found on several different channel islands, this species now occurs in a single location. 

Santa Barbara BG has established an ex-situ population of this rare species, allowing them to both conserve the genetic diveristy in a controlled environment, and use these plants to perform experiments without adversely effecting the small wild population. In 2019 these researchers began a propagation study using this ex-situ collection of island barberry to determine the best propagation methods for the species. Their experimental design had 4 variables. They planted cuttings in both the winter and the spring, they took cuttings from source material of different ages, they tested the use of a heating pad in propagation, and they tested different rooting hormone concentrations. Their results clearly defined the best practices for propagating the species. Cuttings should be made from old growth source material, and should be planted in the winter rather than the spring without the use of a heating pad. Rooting hormone is effective at both a 1:10 and 1:15 dilution. With this information, researchers have been very successful in propagating cuttings from the wild population for reintroductions.

This project is a great example of the value of living collections and horticultural expertise in rare plant conservation. An ex situ population was used to curate best practice recommendations for use by everyone involved in saving this species. From the boots on the ground on Santa Cruz Island to the dedicated staff and volunteers at SBBG, these efforts have ensured the Island Barberry a fighting chance at survival.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Heather E. Schneider, Sean A. Carson, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Documenting the abundance and distribution of rare plants is a critical first step in the the conservation of wild populations. The methods used to map plants on the landscape have changed dramatically over time. Biologists have progressed from providing locality descriptions and marking plant locations on maps by hand, to using handheld GPS units, to the modern-day use of tablets and smart phones. Depending on the goals of a project, plants may be mapped using points, polygons and lines, or sometimes a combination of features, with varying degrees of accuracy. All of these variables can make it difficult to compare population dynamics over time. How can we determine wither a population really expanded or contracted, versus when it appears that way based on discrepancies in mapping technique or GPS accuracy? In an attempt to standardize rare plant mapping efforts on the Channel Islands, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden worked with a group of collaborators to adapt and implement mapping protocols developed by Wildlands Conservation Science using ESRI’s Collector Application and a static spatial grid system. In 2019, we mapped the endangered Santa Cruz Island Dudleya (Dudleya nesiotica) using the protocols that we developed. Our results suggest that the abundance and extent of Santa Cruz Island Dudleya has increased since the last mapping effort in 2006, but we also laid the groundwork for more accurate comparisons in the future. The data generated using this method allow surveyors to map rare plants using consistent protocols that will improve the accuracy of comparisons of spatial distribution and abundance over time. While we are still fine-tuning our protocols and perfecting our methodology, this represents a significant step in improving data collection and analysis for rare plant surveys and monitoring.

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

Kristen Hasenstab-Lehman, C. Matt Guilliams, Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens

Dithyrea maritima (Davidson), or beach spectaclepod, is a dune specialist endemic to coastal dunes from central California, United States, to northwestern Baja California, Mexico. Individuals of this perennial herb spread by rhizomes, forming a diffuse colony of ramets, each terminating in rosette of 1 to several fleshy leaves, and a two-chambered fruit (silicle). It is listed on the California Native Plant Society Rare and Endangered Plant Inventory on list 1B.1 and was listed as Threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. Studied occurrences of the self-incompatible D. maritima have low seed set, though manual outcrosses boost seed production. Knowledge of the distribution of genotypes on the landscape is be a critical first step toward any number of recovery actions. In this study, we sample from approximately 30 individuals from each of eleven samplinglocations spanning the range of the taxon from Morro Bay, CA, USA to San Quintín, Baja CA, MX. We used double digestion RADseq to prepare libraries for high-throughput sequencing, assemble the dataset in ipyrad producing 5092 SNPs, and analyze population genomics of the species. We place the observed population genomic patterns into the context of regional biogeography, and conclude with recommendations for managing the species.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Island rush-rose (Crocanthemum greenei) is a federally threatened shrub that is endemic to the Channel Islands.
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Photo Credit: 
Heather Schneider, courtesy of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Joyce Maschinski sitting near the Laysan albatross chicks on Guadalupe Island.
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Photo Credit: 
Heather Schneider

Heather Schneider, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Conservation seed collections support species’ survival by acting as an insurance policy in the face of extinction. They can also provide resources for research, restoration and reintroduction. A high-quality conservation seed collection has both depth and breadth – capturing genetic diversity within and geographic diversity among populations. Collecting and storing seeds by maternal line (i.e., seeds from a single individual plant represent one maternal line) provides depth to conservation collections. Previous research has suggested that collecting from 50 maternal lines throughout the geographic extent of a given population increases the odds of capturing the majority of the genetic diversity within that population. Capturing the maximum amount of genetic diversity possible from each population increases the integrity of a conservation collection. Further, keeping maternal lines separate ensures that each line can be equally represented in restoration and reintroduction efforts. Separating seeds by maternal line also creates opportunities for future research, especially when questions center on genetic differences within and between populations. When bulk collections are made, there is only a small chance that each maternal line will be represented when a subsample of the collection is removed for use and valuable information is lost. Although collecting by maternal lines makes seed collection and cleaning more complicated, the amount of information that is retained increases the value of the collection and makes the effort worthwhile.

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

Heather Schneider, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

In the fall of 2017, Dr. Heather Schneider from the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden attended the Kew Millennium Seed Bank Partnership’s three-week Seed Conservation Techniques Training Course. The course brought together conservationists from all over the world to improve conservation seed banking practices used by MSB partners. The course covered a variety of topics from seed biology to field work to processing and storage. At the end of the course, students were encouraged to create an action plan for improving their own seed bank techniques at home. Dr. Schneider will discuss some lessons learned and changes implemented at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden resulting from this course.

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