Monday, December 2, 2013

Protecting our Native Plant Populations

By Juliet Rynear, Conservation Committee Chair

We took immediate action after being notified of this patch
of Dicerandra cornutissima, an endemic endangered species,
which was growing on a roadside in Ocala.
Photo credits: above - S. Denton; below - K. Puracan.
FNPS members often contact info@fnps.org about native plant populations which are in imminent harm – from development, highway and road construction, vandalism, poaching, or even fire suppression. This is especially disturbing when the plant species are state and federally listed as threatened or endangered. All inquiries are forwarded to the FNPS Conservation Committee for immediate action.

It is very important that you contact us if you believe that a native plant population is in danger of being destroyed or negatively impacted in some way. In just the past few months we have received notices of plant poaching by FNPS members, loss of rare plant populations to development (private and commercial), and destruction of populations by the Department of Transportation.

By staying alert to actions in your “neck of the woods,” each FNPS member can be a powerful force in our efforts to fulfill our mission to conserve and preserve native plant populations. Our members are the first responders and the first to alert the state organization of the need to mobilize all of our resources.

There are many steps that we can take to preserve and conserve a threatened population. The Conservation Committee will work with you and your local chapter to accurately assess the level of threat and chart a course of action.

In each case, we will:
  1. Verify the species in question
  2. Determine whether any of the species are threatened or endangered
  3. Contact a local FNPS chapter and help organize plant rescue efforts (includes permitting for collection, coordination with engineers and landowners, locating a legally protected recipient site, etc.) if the plant is not threatened or endangered.
  4. Contact relevant partners in the rare plant conservation community if the plant is state or federally listed.

Above - the Conservation Committee has been actively
involved in monitoring this tract of Warea amplexifolia,
an endemic endangered species, in an off-limits area of
Seminole State Forest. Below - W. amplexifolia closeup.
Photo credits: J. Rynear and S. Denton, respectively.
When a plant species is state or federally listed, there are a number of steps that the Conservation Committee will take. They include:
  1. Determining whether or not the population has been previously documented by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI)
  2. Determining the current conservation status in the state of Florida.
  3. Determining whether there are opportunities for land acquisition for all or part of the population.
  4. Determining whether germplasm from the population has been stored within the National Collection of the Center for Plant Conservation.
In Florida, there are two participating institutions in the Center for Plant Conservation. They are Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Bok Tower Gardens. Both of these institutions curate collections of Florida’s rare plant species. The collections are maintained both onsite and at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NCGRP) in Fort Collins, Colorado.

As a last resort, a rescue effort of all rare plants can be conducted. In the state of Florida, there are three organizations focusing on the conservation of our rare and endemic plant species. For north and central Florida there is Bok Tower Gardens Rare Plant Conservation Program, for south Florida there is the Center for Tropical Plant Conservation at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and for the Florida Keys, the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden.

We can all help conserve and preserve our native plant populations. First, by doing no harm to existing wild populations:  never collect plants, seeds, or plant parts without a permit and a comprehensive conservation plan in place. Second, whenever you believe a population is being adversely impacted in any way, contact the Conservation Committee at conservation@fnps.org or the state FNPS at info@fnps.org.

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Posted by Laurie Sheldon

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