Rare Plant Survey Leads to Ecosystem Scale Research Initiative
Jim Locklear, Lauritzen Gardens
Research into the biology and conservation needs of an at-risk plant species can lead to better understanding of the plant community that supports the species and inform ecosystem scale conservation efforts. This has been the experience of Lauritzen Gardens in working with Dalea cylindriceps (Fabaceae), a G3 species native to the western Great Plains. Our field survey for this rare prairie clover revealed a strong association with sandsage prairie, a shrub-steppe community that is of conservation concern in five states in the Great Plains. Given the need to understand the dynamics of this vegetation, we are now engaged in an initiative to identify the processes and patterns that sustain the ecological health and integrity of sandsage prairie. We recently conducted a multi-species (14 taxa) rare plant survey in the sandsage region of Nebraska and this year will undertake a reconnaissance survey of sandsage prairie throughout its range in the Great Plains. This work will result in the first comprehensive publication on the ecology and floristic composition of sandsage prairie and will hopefully yield insights that will inform conservation management practices.