Data Sharing in Support of Collaborative Plant Conservation: A Case Study from California Plant Rescue.

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.

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