Plant Conservation Basics

Dr. Christina Walters and Lisa Hill, National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation, Fort Collins

Because research has shown that seeds will last best when stored at a relative humidity(RH) of 15-25% it is important to understand how the initial RH will respond to temperature changes. In this video, Lisa Hill of the National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins performs an experiment showing how the relative humidity in seeds changes when moved from room temperature into a freezer. She concludes that for optimal long term storage it is best to dry seeds to around 25% relative humidity before putting them into the freezer.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Cheryl Birker, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

The California Seed Bank at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden has a germination testing program to monitor the viability of its many conservation seed collections. Germination tests are conducted on all incoming seed collections before they are placed in freezer storage, and for all rare seed collections, follow-up germination tests are conducted periodically in order to monitor their viability throughout the storage term. Germination testing also allows for experimentation with different pretreatments for breaking seed dormancy to inform propagation protocols. Germination tests are conducted on agar and maintained in a temperature controlled germination chamber. Seeds must be treated with a bleach and Tween¨ solution to reduce microbial growth prior to sowing on agar, and this treatment must sometimes be repeated before the test is completed. Germination tests can run anywhere from two weeks to eight months, with weekly monitoring for new germinations and microbial growth. Seedlings are produced as a byproduct of germination testing, which can be transplanted from agar to soil and grown in a nursery for inclusion in a living collection or for second generation seed collecting as an extra means of ex-situ conservation.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Billy Sale, Califonia Botanic Garden

California Botanic Garden (CalBG) is in the process of seed bulking three rare species of Atriplex from populations originating in southern California. Atriplex coronata var. notatior (G4T1), Atriplex parishii (G2G3) and Atriplex serenana var. davidsonii (G5T1). To better inform the project, propagation trials were performed prior to seed bulking in order to examine germination pretreatments. Gibberellic acid was identified as the most effective pretreatment for all three species and used to initiate seed bulking efforts. This project additionally sought to examine growth in four container sizes and three different soil types for seed production. Each species was planted in four container sizes (6 inch treepots, 6 inch squares, 3 gallons, and 4 inch trays) and three different soil types (restoration potting mix, restoration with lime, and restoration with additional peat moss), which were replicated in all pot sizes in order to see how seed production was impacted. Seed produced from each container was collected separately. Preliminary results and methods will be shared.

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Thursday, October 8, 2020

James Locklear, Lauritzen Gardens

While our plant conservation work is primarily focused on individual at-risk species, Lauritzen Gardens has taken on an unanticipated role as authority and advocate for one of our region’s most biodiverse but underappreciated ecological systems. Sandsage prairie is a shrub-steppe community dominated by sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia). Sandsage prairie occupies an estimated 5 million hectares (12 million acres) of dune habitat in the Great Plains, but discontinuous distribution across the more remote and thinly-populated regions of eight different states masks its significance. Our relationship with this ecological system began a decade ago by conducting rare plant surveys in the sandsage region of Nebraska. Determining conservation strategies for these species required insight into the ecology of sandsage prairie that was lacking in the scientific literature. Subsequent range-wide research by Lauritzen Gardens led to the first comprehensive publication on the structure and dynamics of sandsage prairie vegetation. Expanding on this work, in a soon-to-be-published paper we enumerate for the first time the significant plant and animal diversity supported by sandsage prairie and argue that this neglected ecosystem is a biodiversity hotspot for the Great Plains worthy of landscape-scale conservation efforts.

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Thursday, October 8, 2020

David Remucal, University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

While many seedbanks avoid working with orchids, more groups are taking them on, or collecting them for groups that are. Collecting rules and protocols are not different for orchids but there are enough complexities in their biology to intimidate collectors new to orchids. Orchid seeds are the smallest in the world, and individual capsules can have from hundreds to thousands to over a million seeds in them. Banking orchid seed is complicated by this small size, the difficulty in determining seed viability as well as the difficulty in germinating and growing seedlings of nearly all species. On top of this orchid seeds are likely not orthodox, or if they are they may not store very long in a bank. Given all of these issues, research on orchid seed banking and ex situ conservation techniques is vital. In this short video we will introduce collectors to the basics of orchid seed work, covering issues of collection timing, mechanics of collecting, and storage that may trip up those that haven’t worked with orchids before.

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Friday, October 9, 2020

Shana Byrd, The Dawes Arboretum

Prairie was once a dominant grassland ecosystem, covering millions of hectares in the United States. Today, this unique habitat is among the most critically endangered biomes in North America. While eastern deciduous forest was the historical cover throughout most of Ohio, small populations of original prairie habitat existed in the state. Restoring the diversity offered by these historic ecosystems is a worthwhile goal that can support the sensitive species that depend on them. Recent studies on mine lands have supported the survival of native species in reclamation efforts, leading to insights on how this approach can be applied to rehabilitate other challenging landscapes. A five year study is underway at The Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio to explore the practice of using native species in seed mixes to restore diversity on electric utility rights-of-way. Many perennial species in the native seed mix will mature slowly and therefore were not expected to be present in the initial years of evaluation. However, in year 3 of the study, 84% of the species in the native seed mix (22 of 26 species) were recorded as successfully established within the study plots. Biological surveys indicate a variety of insects utilize the plots, including 33 butterfly species, 16 beneficial insect families, and 14 bee taxa. Preliminary results support the use of native seed mixes to enhance species diversity, while also restoring elements of an imperiled ecosystem. The next phase of this project may evaluate the inclusion of less common species of concern within the native seed mixes as a reintroduction strategy onto the landscape. Given initial results, native seed mixes should be considered a viable post-construction ecological restoration method that creates regionally native habitat, increases biodiversity and ecosystem function, more so than the conventional non-native seeding options once considered the only standard practice.

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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.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Dr. James Luken, College of Science, Coastal Carolina University

Marginal land now devoted to growing harvested crops may be better suited to other land uses such as biodiversity enhancement and carbon sequestration. However, farmers are not encouraged to explore the development of these opportunities due largely to subsidized federal crop insurance (FCI). This study examined FCI outcomes from 2013- 2017 in 69 Coastal Plain counties of North Carolina and South Carolina. The loss ratio (total crop indemnities paid/total insurance premiums paid) was used to identify 21 counties with high-risk agriculture. Then an index of conservation opportunity was calculated for each county using the loss ratio, insurance subsidy and an estimate of natural capital (i.e., renewable or nonrenewable natural resources the can provide benefits to humans). Where marginal farmland is surrounded by forest and natural capital is high, the index will identify counties currently supported by FCI that more quickly and completely incorporate the full range of ecological dynamics and biological diversity when farming is abandoned. The top 10 counties for conservation opportunity, with the exceptions of Scotland County, NC and Marion County, SC., were located in the outer Coastal Plain or coastal zone where natural capital is high. Transitioning land use from harvested crops to biodiversity enhancement or carbon sequestration will require bold changes in agricultural policies and subsidies so that income streams to farmers are maintained while novel ecological targets are met.

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Thursday, March 5, 2020

Dr. Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative Plant Conservation Issues on Roadsides and Right of Ways in Alabama

Patrick Thompson, Coordinator Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance

Alfred Schotz, Botanist Alabama Natural Heritage Program

Michelle Reynolds, Administrator Southeastern Roadside Defenders

Patrick Daniel, Collaborator Southeastern Roadside Defenders

Alabama has a diversity of habitats, species, ideologies and challenges. Private lands management is a place where these things all come together. On the roadsides, this is especially true. The most heartening thing about the condition of Alabama’s roadside plant communities is the fact that they have voices speaking up for them. The Southeastern Roadside Defenders is a place for voices to come together. The goals of the Southeastern Roadside Defenders Facebook page is to gather and share information on good vegetation management plans, share herbicide regulatory info, promote examples of good programs and success stories, while building a network of allies. We believe in grassroots activism. By sharing good examples as well as the bad, we think we can connect the dots and build a broad network to help combat the overuse of herbicides and the subsequent destruction of plant communities that provide important eco-services along our roadways. We believe roadside wildflowers play a role connecting people, land, communities, and tourism. We use before and after photos to demonstrate harm to plants, erosion caused by the lack of plants, and harm to the environment and stormwater infrastructure from the erosion and sediment. We focus on these points in discussion with officials: public health, aesthetics, connectivity, environment, water quality, and road/shoulder degradation. We partner with allies and meet with officials and municipalities to help align their comprehensive goals with best practices in vegetation management. By mirroring language written by city, county, and state planners, we strive to find common ground and help to develop policy. This approach has been slow but steady. We encourage others to speak and act locally by arming them with information and talking points. Steam is building. There are real problems in this state. Phlox pulchra, an S1G1 species with only 6 occurences has been sprayed with herbicide at two roadside locations. The conversations with people concerned about roadside vegetation management across the region have shown us that our problems are not unique. Alabama looks forward to pointing to the successful work being done in North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee and our other southeastern states to hold our vegetation managers to these higher standards. Alabama’s roadside species will benefit from all of your efforts to raise the bar, and we thank you for that.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Brian Pelc, Restoration Project Manager, The Nature Conservancy-Florida. Coordinator of the Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance. Chad Anderson, Ecologist,

Florida Natural Areas Inventory Wet and Mesic Longleaf Pine Flatwoods (and structurally comparable longleaf ecosystems) play a critical role in maintaining the high biodiversity of southeastern forests. Previous flatwoods work has identified as many as 191 vascular plant taxa as well as >1500 plant species endemic to the North American Coastal Plain. This broad region of the southeastern continental United States is home to a gradient of native flatwoods habitats that once covered upwards of 90 million acres from Virginia to Texas. However, the vast majority of these native pine ecosystems were converted to off-site pine plantations and fire excluded in the last century, greatly reducing plant diversity and leaving land managers and biologists uncertain how best to implement and measure restoration efforts within a legacy of ecological mismanagement. Flatwoods restoration approaches in the last decade have resulted in very few successes, largely due to low survival of pine seedlings grown under an uncharacteristically dense and resilient shrub layer. To address this uncertainty and reverse the pattern of failed efforts, a partnership in the eastern portion of the Florida Panhandle is coordinating an effort to test various canopy conversion and fire re-introduction efforts on a meaningful scale and using a common monitoring protocol. The end goal will be a suite of clearing, site preparation, planting, maintenance and monitoring regimes that efficiently restore forest function and facilitate increased biodiversity over time. After identifying knowledge gaps for flatwoods longleaf pine establishment as a significant and high priority obstacle to large scale flatwoods restoration, the steering committee of the Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance (ARSA)identified funds to 1) develop a monitoring protocol useful and comparable across the region and a variety of canopy thinning strategies and 2) install permanent plots in (at least) three partnership properties that span the east-west breadth of the partnership region (~ 100 miles.) Speakers will describe the baseline monitoring effort as well as plot level comparison between traditional vegetation monitoring data and data collected by terrestrial lidar scans. This project will require as much as decade to realize the full suite of tools for reconversion and associated impacts on flatwoods function and biodiversity. However, early successes can inform other projects and refine the suite of available tools.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020