The Role of Botanic Gardens and Partnership in Plant Conservation in the Changing Landscape of the Southeastern United States of America
Lecture by Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, Ph.D., director of the State Botanical Garden.
Note: This meeting will be held in the Gardenside Room at the State Botatnical Garden (downstairs from the visitor center atrium) on December 7th. A pre-meeting reception will begin at 6:15pm for snacks and socializing, and then the speaker will begin at 7pm.
Increasingly, botanic gardens and arboreta serve as effective partners for conserving plant species diversity and restoring natural communities at a time when the need for these activities is urgent. Capacity for restoration and conservation at botanic gardens comes directly from staff expertise in horticulture and research, but also from the role that gardens can take as good partners. Gardens are in a position to communicate information about rare plant species to owners and managers of public and private lands, and they can be instrumental in creating networks for effective conservation action. Several examples from the southeastern United States of America illustrate how this has been put into practice: 1) Mountain bog habitats have been reduced to less than 3% of their original distribution and they harbour a suite of rare species, including the mountain purple pitcher plants, Sarracenia purpurea var. montana. After more than two decades of restoration efforts, survival rates of augmented plants are more than 76% and population genetic diversity is not significantly different between restored and original populations. 2) Dwarf sumac, Rhus michauxii, is an endangered shrub that has become extinct in some states and critically rare in others. Through multiple partnerships, our on-the-ground management efforts have resulted in exponential increases in plant numbers and documented high levels of genetic diversity in the last population of this species at the southern most edge of its range. 3) Florida torreya, Torreya taxifolia, is considered one of the most endangered conifers in the world. Recent renewed efforts to survey, study and restore this species have resulted in significant new insights for understanding existing threats and available tools for preventing extinction of this species. Not only are botanic gardens achieving successes in plant conservation, through networked partnerships, they are setting priorities for conserving at-risk plants species. In November 2016, the first Southeastern Partners in Plant Conservation meeting convened at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. More than 160 people from 24 states and territories representing, federal, state and local government agencies, botanic gardens, universities and other partners met for three days to set priorities for 279 at-risk plant taxa across eight subregions. Priority actions were identified for nine areas of conservation need including, land management, ex situ conservation, and genetic and taxonomic research. What was unexpected was the identification of taxa that did not need conservation action or regulation due to new information or confirmation that they are stable on protected lands. Ultimately it will take continued coordinated efforts between agencies and botanical gardens to address priority needs for plants species and prevent loss of plant biodiversity.
Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, Ph.D.
Dr. Jennifer Cruse-Sanders is the Director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at the University of Georgia, in Athens, GA USA. The Garden is home to diverse plant collections, impactful education programs, the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies, and a is a founding member of the award winning Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance. She received her undergraduate degree from Boston University and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. She was a Keck Postdoctoral Fellow at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, CA before joining the faculty at Salem College in Winston Salem, NC. From 2008 to 2017, she served as the Vice President for Science and Conservation at the Atlanta Botanical Garden where she launched the Center for Southeastern Conservation and helped to host the inaugural Southeastern Partners in Plant Conservation meeting. A recipient of the 2016 Marsh Award for International Plant Conservation from Botanic Garden Conservation International, the 2016 Carl N. Becker Stewardship Award from the Natural Areas Association and the 2015 USDA Forest Service Wings Across the Americas International Award for Urban Communities in Conservation, Cruse-Sanders has published numerous conservation articles with collaborators and students at botanical gardens and universities. Recently she has helped to develop community sustainability programs by working with partners to establish native plants and pollinator habitats in greenspaces.