California Plant Rescue Initiative
In California, CPC members have come together as California Plant Rescue (CaPR), working to better conserve the immense botanical diversity of the state through seed collections. Working within an area that includes the California Floristic Province, home to over 6,000 plant species (not even including subtaxa!), over one third of which are endemic, there is an incredible amount of diversity in the state to be conserved. Such diversity can be daunting and requires collaboration and prioritization to make it achievable – and this is exactly what CaPR aims to do.
The need for prioritization was made clear in a recent study by staff at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (Meyer et al. 2014) which delved into the status of rare plant species held in regional seed banks. They found that a large proportion of rare plant taxa native to California represented in seed banks have formal legal protections – leaving behind the other taxa of conservation concern, such as those identified by NatureServe or the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) as rare and endangered. Thus, it is the goal of CaPR to collect 75% of the highest risk species recognized by CNPS.
With funding support from Kew Foundation America through the CPC national office, our California Plant Rescue partners have made great progress since 2014. In the first two collection seasons since CaPR’s formation, the partners collected seed from 73 unique species – 50 of the CNPS high risk species, while in 2018 CaPR partners collected over 100,000 seeds of 65 species in 91 locations; 38 of these species are globally rare. Importantly, we have also made progress in how we share collection data, our field season plans, and species priorities through both increased communication and use of technological resources on our website.
CaPR gathered for our annual fall meeting at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in October. We shared our 2017 accomplishments and made plans for 2018. Highlights for the coming year include highlighting CaPR at the CNPS meeting by hosting a booth and giving presentations as well as beginning a collaborative project under a Section 6 Recovery Grant coordinated through the CPC National Office. The Section 6 grant will contribute $141,000 to CaPR partners for seed collections of federally endangered species. We will continue to work toward increasing the capacity of the partners to do more conservation work by finding new tools, developing relationships with land managers, and obtaining additional funding. These are all recurring challenges that CaPR partners hope to face together.
(Members: UC Davis Arboretum, UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, UC Botanic Garden (at Berkeley), Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden (UCLA), Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, San Diego Botanic Garden, San Diego Zoo Global, California Native Plant Society, East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden)