Plant Conservation Basics

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.

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

Alexandra Seglias (Denver Botanic Gardens)

Nicola Ripley (Betty Ford Alpine Gardens)

Brittany Roberts Marshall (Betty Ford Alpine Gardens)

 

Press 'cc' on video player to turn on subtitles. 

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. 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.

Date Recorded: 
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.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Gary Kauffman, National Forests of North Carolina

US National Forests (NF) revise their forest plans every 15-20 years. Currently the Nantahala and Pisgah NFs (NPNF), 1 million plus acres, are in plan revision. As part of the process, management areas are reassessed including designated sites. Special Interest Areas (SIAs) are designated to denote special features across the landscape. The majority are based on natural features or elements such as rare species, rare habitats, or high-quality plant communities. The NC Natural Heritage Program (NCNHP) delineates natural areas (NHNAs) across NC, including 230,000 acres across the NPNF. It denotes these with five classifications from the highest, exceptional, to the least, general. Of these, the NCNHP requested all the exceptional NHNAs, about 115,000 acres, be designated as SIAs. In the draft plan revision, the number of SIA acres has been doubled to around 103,000 acres. The discussion will describe the evaluation process and the continuing evolving process on assessing the undesignated and other classified acres as a USFS-NCNHP team. As part of the Nantahala and Pisgah NFs plan revision, an assessment was completed for the prescribe burn program. A critical question was whether we were burning in the right places, both for ecological benefit as well as fuel reduction. Neighborhood modeling in a GIS was used to derive ecological fire prioritization areas. The model used six separately weighted fire adapted ecological zones as well as fire adapted rare species (federally listed, endemic, and state rare with different weights). The same process was used to assess fuel reduction and community protection needs with incorporation of rankings from the southern wildfire risk assessment report. The discussion will look at the overlap between these two separate models as well as prescribe burns and or wildfires during the last 12 years within any of these areas.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Katherine D. Heineman, Christa Horn, Naomi Fraga, Cheryl Sevilla, Heather Schneider, Vanessa Handley, Holly Forbes, Brett Hall, Evan Meyer, Tony Gunroe, Shannon Still, David Magney, Stacy Anderson, Bart O’Brien, Joyce Maschinski

Center for Plant Conservation, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, University of California Botanic Garden, University of California-Santa Cruz Botanic Garden & Arboretum, University of California-Los Angeles, Mildred E. Mathias Botanic Garden, San Diego Botanic Garden, University of California-Davis, Botanic Garden & Arboretum, California Native Plant Society, Regional Parks Botanic Garden

California is home to one third of the globally rare plant species in the United States. To secure this incredible flora, ten botanical institutions in California have joined together to form the seed banking collaborative, California Plant Rescue. By sharing our accession data and integration of combined dataset with our natural heritage database, we created a suite of tools in support of seed collections. These tools include a web-based accessions database, a mapping application for collections targeting, and a web-app that prioritizes species for collection based on location, conservation status, and phylogenetic diversity. From our dataset, we also conducted a gap analysis of current collections in order to direct our seed strategy moving forward. Our analysis evaluated the spatial, phylogenetic, landownership, and ecological patterns of seed collections in California. Some patterns were intuitive: Our seed collections were heavily biased toward Southern California where the majority of our permanent seed banks, including our most prolific collector, is located. Ecological patterns were somewhat less intuitive: despite high interannual variation in population size, annuals are more likely to be represented in seed collection than perennials perhaps owing toward larger seed set and lower incidence of recalcitrance. Finally, our landownership analysis demonstrated that the greatest potential for seed collection in California is on US Forest Service land, which has the highest density of extant rare plant occurrences. We identified five specific National Forests which are home to 20 or more uncollected rare species, an insight that will be crucial for prioritizing permitting and relationship building with agency collaborators. In 2019, California Plant Rescue was awarded $3.6 million by the State of California to seed bank the remaining 650 rarest plant species in California. We will leverage these tools and insights to take full advantage of this exciting opportunity.

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

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