THE STATE OF CPC
John R Clark
President and CEO, Center for Plant Conservation
Director of Plant Collections and Strategy, San Diego Zoo Global
The Center for Plant Conservation was founded in 1984 with the guiding principal that the world’s plant conservation experts must come together to make a meaningful difference in preserving plant diversity for future generations. Principally focused in the U.S., CPC Participating Institutions and their conservation professionals represent many of the world’s experts in plant conservation. Using cutting-edge methods and the best science available, CPC Conservation Officers as they are known, do the hard work of saving plants for future generations.
CPC’s mission is simple and proven: we ensure stewardship of imperiled native plants. To do this, we implement the following tested and effective strategies:
- We advance science-based best practices in plant conservation through our network of conservation partners known as Participating Institutions;
- Our network actively applies these practices to Save Plants from extinction here in North America as part of the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants; and
- We share best practices with conservationists all over the world and advocate for plants and their value to humankind.
In this address, I will provide updates on these three areas of focus, with details on the over 1,400 kinds of plants now in the CPC National Collection and updates on the tools, technology, and science of plant conservation. In addition, recent efforts to enlist more partners in CPC will be shared and prospective Participating Institutions in attendance will be introduced.
SAVING PLANTS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
V.P. Operations and Advancement, Center for Plant Conservation,
The first step in engaging the public in any cause or issue is making them aware of the cause or issue. We saw the need to build the public engagement in our goal of saving plants. Social media is a relatively inexpensive tool that allows us to reach a wide swath of the public and build that awareness of CPC and our network’s work to save plants. Last summer CPC reestablished its social media presence. In the fall, we launched a social media strategy to do the following: 1) Increase public awareness of the importance of plant conservation; 2) Share information about the role of CPC and the 43 Participating Institutions; 3) Encourage the public to explore the CPC website; including the National Collection and Plant Profiles; and 4) Create dynamic content for the CPC homepage and to share with PIs. With the support of the PIs we have started to build a bigger following for saving plants.
CPC BEST PLANT CONSERVATION PRACTICES TO SUPPORT SPECIES SURVIVAL IN THE WILD
V.P. Science and Conservation, Center for Plant Conservation, Director Plant Conservation, Institute for Conservation Research, San Diego Zoo Global
Over the past two years, CPC has updated its guidelines for best conservation practices. Previously CPC guidelines appeared in five separate publications: Center for Plant Conservation Sampling Guidelines for Conservation of Endangered Plants (Falk and Holsinger 1991), Guidelines for the Management of Orthodox Seeds (Wieland 1995), Guidelines for Developing a Rare Plant Reintroduction Plan (CPC 1996), Revised Sampling Guidelines for Conservation Collections of Rare and Endangered Plants (Guerrant et al. 2004), and Center for Plant Conservation Best Reintroduction Practice Guidelines (Maschinski et al. 2012). The new format design embraces the digital age and the busy practitioner. Subsections or the entire document will be available to view or download from www.saveplants.org. Moreover, we will be able to make updates in a timely fashion as new research emerges.
CPC Best Plant Conservation Practices to Support Species Survival in the Wild incorporates five plant conservation topics: 1. Conventional Seed Banking to Support Species Survival in the Wild; 2. Alternatives to Conventional Seed Banking; 3. Genetic Guidelines for Acquiring, Maintaining, and Using a Conservation Collection; 4. Best Reintroduction Practice Guidelines and 5. Documentation and Data Sharing.
Beyond the new format, practitioners will find new recommendations for dividing seed accessions for safety duplication and testing, new guidelines of drying conditions of seeds, tissue culture and cryopreservation guidelines, and updated definitions about seed storage behavior. The Genetics Guidelines host new illustrations and decision-making tools, as well as advice about whether and when to consider mixing populations sources for reintroductions. The Reintroduction Guidelines feature new information pertaining to seed introductions, refined viewpoints on the importance of community factors and site selection, and more examples to illustrate key points.
The written portion of the guidelines is the backbone of a much larger vision. Because we have the flexibility of digital format, we can also link pdfs, videos, definitions, illustrations to the recommendations. National meeting oral presentations in 2018 are the beginning of a new way to generate the next dimension of material that can support the guidelines.
These updated guidelines represent a true full network collaboration. I would like to thank my colleagues for their insights, their comments, their fine research and publications that continue to build the science of plant conservation.
EXPLORING WEB TOOLS ON SAVEPLANTS.ORG AND PREVIEWING FUTURE TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS AT CPC
Katherine D. Heineman
Data Scientist, Center for Plant Conservation and Institute for Conservation Research,
San Diego Zoo Global
Adopting and advancing technologies that save plants is a core mission of the Center for Plant Conservation. This year, we have increased the set of tools available to CPC Participating Institutions through the CPC PI portal on Saveplants.org, and through our work with collaborative groups within the CPC network such as California Plant Rescue. The CPC Participating Institution portal now includes an interactive editing portal for National Collection Plant Profiles, designed to highlight the plant saving actions performed by our PIs. This portal now allows users to query a database of all North American rare plant & National Collection species, and includes a form that standardizes data transfer to the National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Perseveration. While collecting for species-level information for the National Collection, we believe that tracking collection information for our PIs can allow us to make progress toward regional and national conservation goals. For California Plant Rescue, we have created web data tools that allow six of the PIs in the CPC network (eight gardens total) to track progress toward their goal of collecting all rare plants in California. These tools include a searchable collections database that integrates the collections’ status, targeting status, and ex-situ collection location of every California native plant, and a web map for viewing and searching georeferenced accessions. Moving forward we would like to renew efforts to collect rare plant accession information for all PIs, as a basis for developing nation-wide tools that benefit all PIs. We also strive to facilitate more robust and flexible online conversation about rare plant conservation and produce multi-media versions of plant conservation protocols to better showcase the knowledge of the CPC Network.
Botanical Research Institute of Texas
“Discovering and Preserving Texas’ Botanical Heritage: Good for Science, Good for Conservation.”
In 1996, Bernard Baum (Sampling the Green World) said, “The main sources of knowledge of biodiversity are the study of specimens acquired through exploration and their resulting collections.” Texas is fortunate to have a wealth of information about its plant life, vegetation, and natural history due to many collectors and collections over the last 197 years, since the first scientific collecting began in Texas in 1820. The 19th Century ushered into Texas a wave of zealous naturalists who labored tirelessly in the great age of discovery. Notable Texas expeditions occurred in the Rolling Plains/High Plains (James 1820), the South Texas Plains (Berlandier 1828-1834), Lower portions of the Post Oak Savannah and Blackland Prairies (Drummond 1833-1834). Edwards Plateau (Lindheimer 1836-1879), Pineywoods, Gulf Prairies and Marshes, lower portions of the Post Oak Savannah, and Trans Pecos (Wright 1837-1852), and finally the Blackland Prairies and Cross Timbers and Prairies of North Central Texas (Reverchon 1848-1905). These early sojourners gave science a wealth of herbarium specimens, which represent an important source of knowledge about Texas’ biodiversity. The 20th Century marshaled in a new era of collecting and botanists who made new observations and discoveries. Collecting habits in Texas ebbed and flowed over the years – slowing down during the Civil War, then increasing afterwards, then decreasing at the turn of the century, and finally peaking in the late 1900s. A current decline of plant collecting continues into the 21st century but at what price? Herbarium specimens are a gold mine of information; deciphering the information is good for science and good for conservation in the 21st century. Collections are leading the way to advances in plant science and conservation (Funk pers. comm. 2016). We will examine herbarium collections to 1) map under-collected areas in Texas, 2) look at the rate of plant collecting in the 21st century, and 3) identify areas of Texas in need of further exploration and collecting.
USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation
“Why seeds and spores die in the freezer, and sometimes faster than anticipated”
Knowing how long stored germplasm survives is critical for effective banking of genetic resources. Longevity is inherently difficult to predict because there are so many factors controlling how cells respond to storage conditions. Uncertainty increases for germplasm collections of natural populations, especially rare species that might have additional issues with the reproductive biology or with assessments of viability or aging. Storage conditions invariably involve manipulation of temperature and moisture, and this presentation will describe some of the basics of why this leads to long-term preservation of some germplasm and what we think is going wrong when the desired longevity is not achieved. Preserving germplasm involves slowing down the rate that ‘clocks tick,’ and this means that we need to slow down the rate that molecules move. The most effective way to do this is by having molecules impede their own movement by pushing them together tightly and forming a solid (like a traffic jam). This process begins during development when cells accumulate dry matter to replace water, allowing molecules to come into close proximity naturally without deforming stresses. Cells from orthodox seeds shrink a little and solidify during maturation drying, but major mechanical stresses are easily avoided. Once in the solid, the rules for molecular movement are mostly dominated by how tightly the molecules are packed (determined by properties of the molecules and concentration of water) and by how much energy they have (determined by temperature). Given a particular molecular configuration in solidified cytoplasm, the effect of lowering temperature on mobility is predictable, as is the kinetics of reactions, such as aging, that are regulated by mobility. Lowering temperature slows down aging reactions in the same way in diverse seeds and spores; thus, reducing storage temperature from 25 to -18oC will usually increase longevity about 30 fold (if moisture is optimized). The good news is that germplasm that survives 4 years at 25oC will survive about 120 years in the freezer. The bad news is that germplasm that survives only 40 days at 25oC won’t survive much longer than 3 years in the freezer. Freezer temperatures appear to be a nexus for how molecules move in biological systems. Below -18oC, aging reactions appear to be driven by molecules vibrating, which has a low temperature dependency. Thus, a large temperature decrease gives only moderate benefits. Currently, we estimate a 3 to 5 fold increase in longevity by storing germplasm cryogenically rather than in the freezer. Further complexity in structure and mobility of solidified germplasm is introduced by the presence of oil droplets in the cytoplasm. We have linked lipid crystallization with faster aging in the freezer and explain this as the condensed structure of solidified lipids causing greater pore space, hence increased mobility, in aqueous domains of the cytoplasm. Collectively our work provides a theoretical framework to explain why lowering temperature and moisture affect longevity and to predict how long germplasm stored at -18C will survive.
Participating Institution Presentations
Cheryl Birker*1 and Evan Meyer1 ,2, 1 Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden; 2Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, UCLA
“Seed conservation of Abies bracteata at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden”
Abies bracteata (Bristlecone fir; Santa Lucia fir) is a 12-30 meter tall tree restricted to a small, wildfire prone range in the Santa Lucia Mountains on the central coast of California. While several botanical gardens maintain living specimens, it remains rare in cultivation and until this project, seeds had yet to be conserved in a germplasm repository for long-term conservation. In 2014 Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG) partnered with the United States Forest Service to seed bank Abies bracteata, but a number of complications postponed the collection, including low cone production, high seed predation, and cone inaccessibility. The populations have been impacted by years of drought as well as by the 2016 Soberanes fire, which also impeded collecting efforts. In 2017, a maternal-line conservation seed collection was made with the help of a tree climber and some unconventional collecting techniques. Seeds are now stored in the RSABG seed bank, with a backup collection at the National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation and a living collection in production in the RSABG nursery facility. The lessons learned during this collecting effort will help inform future collections of Abies bracteata from additional populations throughout its range.
Rowan Blaik, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
“The use of GitHub, an open-source code and data sharing website, at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.”
Has another institution already solved a plant dataset issue you currently face? Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) has written several small, modular computer scripts for use in managing and verifying plant collections records and plant checklist data. Instead of only sharing finished datasets, BBG is trialling the sharing of the tools and methodologies used to compile the data itself, using the GitHub code sharing platform. BBG has not previously made code available under open source licences, and doing so will allow others to collaborate and make improvements to the scripts for the benefit of all. As this trial in ongoing, we would appreciate contributions and feedback from the community. In this presentation we will discuss some of the challenges encountered so far and the procedures and formatting for sharing code online.
Bill Brumback1 and Jay O’Neil2 , 1New England Wild Flower Society; 2Smithsonian Experimental Research Center
“Soil Seedbank Longevity of a Terrestrial Orchid.”
Seeds of terrestrial orchid species are small and essentially without food reserves, but data on the longevity in the wild of seed of most orchid species is lacking. In October 2003, packets containing seeds of the Federally Threatened orchid, Isotria medeoloides, small whorled pogonia, were buried within a population of this species in New Hampshire. Seeds packets were removed from the soil for testing in 2007 and again in 2017. Seeds were examined for viable embryos and also tested with Triphenyltetrazolium chloride (TTC) for viability. Results showed that in 2007 over 50% of the seeds remained viable, and by 2017, more than 13 years after burial, the number had only dropped to 42%. There was no evidence of germination or mycorrhizal association in the buried seeds. These results indicate the potential for a persistent soil seedbank for this orchid species, despite its minute seeds. Protocols for ex situ seed banking of many terrestrial orchids have yet to be developed, but in situ soil seedbank experiments with orchid seeds can give clues to the survival potential of a population in the wild.
Jennifer Ceska, The State Botanical Garden of Georgia
“Reintroduction of Smooth Coneflower.”
A tall and elegant wildflower, Smooth Coneflower was dwindling to extinction on Georgia’s roadsides where seed heads and whole plants were poached or killed by roadside maintenance. With her Master’s thesis demonstrating that endangered plants could be grown from seeds and successfully replanted in safeguarding sites, SBG’s Heather Alley changed the way Smooth Coneflower conservation was carried out in Georgia. SBG has grown more than 1,000 Smooth Coneflower plants since 2000. We have planted 900 Smooth Coneflower plants and sown 3,700 seeds directly into the wild. We work with the GPCA and our volunteers to annually monitor and manage four Smooth Coneflower sites in the wild.
Emily E. D. Coffey, Ph.D., Ron Determann, Rebecca Byrd, & Carrie Radcliffe, Atlanta Botanical Garden
“What’s new for Torreya taxifolia, North Americas rarest conifer?”
Torreya taxifolia, known as the Florida Torreya, is one of the rarest conifers in the world. Once found as a canopy tree, Torreya is an evergreen dioecious tree endemic to a narrow range of bluffs and ravines adjacent to the Apalachicola River in northwest Florida and extreme southwest Georgia. In the mid-Twentieth Century, this species suffered a catastrophic decline as all reproductive age trees died from a disease (Fusarium torrayae) that remained unknown until very recently. In the decades that followed, this species did not recover. What remains is a population approximately 0.22% of its original size, which is subjected to changes in hydrology, forest structure, heavy browsing by deer, loss of reproduction capability, as well as dieback from fungal disease. Atlanta Botanical Garden’s dedication and efforts to protect Torreya has furthered understanding of its ecology and life cycle as well as the decline of this once majestic species. We present the new in-situ and ex-situ seed experiment we are conducting at ABG as part of the recovery effort for this species.
Christopher Dunn, Todd Bittner and Robert Wesley, Cornell Botanic Gardens
“Trollius americana (American Globeflower) reintroduction success.”
In situ conservation efforts for American globeflower (Trollius laxus) are ongoing within two Cornell Botanic Garden Natural Areas. A reintroduction program was initiated to augment the globeflower population and a total of 344 propagated plants have been successfully introduced with a 90-95% survival rate. The introduced population now surpasses the original population at the site, which has declined by during the same period 50%. Excessive shading is suspected as the causal factor for this population decline. Data collection on light intensity is underway to quantify the level of shading across the population, and will be used to inform future experimental canopy thinning to obtain 30-50% light availability.
Holly Forbes, University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley
“Outreach in support of plant conservation.”
UC Berkeley has an annual fundraising campaign encouraging donations during a 24-hour extravaganza called the Big Give. Each unit on campus is encouraged to participate by way of incentives (more social media posts by the public, more money provided by campus as a bonus). We focused our outreach for this effort on our popular conservation program. Donations were modest the first year when modest efforts were applied. Staff time and effort were stepped up for the second and third year, resulting in much better return ($40K). These campaigns were seeded ahead of time by established donors and print and social media were heavily utilized to reach potential donors on the day of the Big Give. In addition to financial contributions toward conservation, the Big Give helped us to better publicize our conservation program.
Anne Frances, NatureServe
“Data sharing among plant conservation networks”
The NatureServe Network comprises 80+ member programs in the United States, Canada, and Latin America. Each member program has been “tracking” rare plants for over 30 years. Tracking entails surveying, mapping, monitoring, protecting, and assigning conservation statuses. As a network, NatureServe has standard methods and a shared data model to “roll-up” jurisdictional datasets into one central database. NatureServe maintains the central database, providing the taxonomic framework, exchanging data with each member program, and making changes to the data model as necessary. The consolidated central database allows NatureServe central to assign National and Global Ranks, as well as conduct Red List Assessments. This presentation will focus on lessons learned from network-wide data-sharing and explore current challenges and opportunities that result from new technology and increased access to data. We will discuss ways to share data among multiple networks for more effective and efficient plant conservation.
Philip Gonsiska*, Whitney Costner, Cheryl Peterson, Bok Tower Gardens
“Preliminary observations of a population augmentation of Warea amplexifolia (Brassicaceae) in Lake Wales, FL.”
Warea amplexifolia (Clasping Warea) (Brassicaceae) is an annual endemic to sandhill habitat in the northern third of the Lake Wales Ridge in central Florida. It typically germinates between February and early May and flowers from August through October. The main threats to W. amplexifolia are development and lack of land management. In 2000, there were fewer than 20 populations; only ten small populations may still exist. The Rare Plant Conservation Program at Bok Tower Gardens monitors seven reintroduction/augmentation sites for this species. One of these is in a natural area that is part of Mountain Lake, a gated community immediately adjacent to the Gardens. Mountain Lake is the site of a naturally-occurring population, seeds from which have been used in five subsequent outplantings there between 2011 and 2017. The site received little management until 2016, when trees and brush were cleared, and part of the site was burned. In spring of 2017, 418 W. amplexifolia plants were added, along with plants of several other native associated species. Although this project is ongoing, preliminary qualitative comparisons with an introduction at Lake Louisa State Park suggest that W. amplexifolia is more successful when introduced into habitats that already have established canopy and groundcover. If these observations are supported by the data, this information will be used to guide future introduction efforts.
Ed Guerrant, Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank
“Penstemon peckii Soil Seed Bank Study at 25 years.”
Penstemon peckii (G3-S3 Federal SOC) is an Oregon endemic with a relatively compact range in the semi-arid Ponderosa pine forest east of the Cascade Mountains. The vast majority of known populations (ca 93%) are almost entirely within the Sisters Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest. A 1992 Species Conservation Strategy by Cindi O’Neil found that it is “Best adapted to open full sun habitats, low vegetative competition and natural fire.” The natural fire frequency was 7 to 15 years, but active fire suppression for many decades had diminished and degraded habitat. Number one in the “What we do not know” list is “How long does Peck’s penstemon seed remain viable in the soil seed bank?” To address that question, in 1992 we gathered seeds from multiple populations across the species’ range. We mixed seeds from 11 populations into a single, large bulk sample in order to compare their survivorship in the soil seed bank and in an ex situ seed bank. In addition to initial trials of fresh and dried and frozen seeds, samples have been removed from the field and ex situ seed bank after 6, 12, 18 months, and then at 4, 15 and now 25 years. The current round of germination trials of 25-year old seeds is still underway, but to date, approximately 26% of those stored in the soil and 51% in the freezer have germinated. The species clearly has the capacity to form a long-lived soil seed bank.
Kristin E. Haskins1, Sheila Murray1, Andrea Hazelton2, The Arboretum at Flagstaff1; Desert Butte Botany2
“Long-term Monitoring Data: Finding Some Light at the End of the Tunnel.”
Acquisition of a long-term dataset is truly rare and can represent decades of hard work and thousands of dollars or more in exhausted resources. The standard model of monitoring year after year is unsustainable for most organizations and begs the question, when should it stop? The Arboretum at Flagstaff has a demography data set for Arizona cliffrose (Purshia subintegra) that has been on-going since 1996. Different ‘levels’ of monitoring have occurred over the years depending on available resources. With some recent funds, we set out to address the following questions with long-term data: 1) What is the long-term viability of the population? 2) Which life stages are most important to capture in the monitoring? And 3) can we monitor less often and still capture important life history events? Challenges included determining starting population sizes for population matrix models and gaps in data. Using the 22 years of monitoring data combined with data from published papers, anecdotes, and historic weather data, we produced population growth rates for P. subintegra and identified key life stages correlated with precipitation events, thus enabling implementation of a modified monitoring protocol, which will conserve valuable resources.
Christa Horn, San Diego Zoo Global and Center for Plant Conservation
“What is a conservation collection?”
The primary purpose of a conservation collection is to support species’ survival and reduce the extinction risk of globally and/or regionally rare species. A conservation collection is an ex situ (offsite) collection of seeds, plant tissues, or whole plants that has accurate records of provenance, maternal lines differentiated, and diverse genetic representation of a species’ wild populations. To be most useful for species survival in the wild, a conservation collection should have depth, meaning that it contains seeds, tissues or whole plants of at least 50 unrelated mother plants, and breadth, meaning it consists of accessions from multiple populations across the range of the species. Conservation collections of seeds should have tests of initial germination and viability, cultivation protocols developed, and periodic testing of long-term viability.
James Lange and Jennifer Possley, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
“What did we do about our seed bank when Hurricane Irma was due to hit the entire state of Florida and put everything out of commission for a week or more?”
In the event of a hurricane, low elevation and proximity to the coast place Fairchild at high risk, and thus contingency plans must be in place to preserve our ex situ collections. Anticipating severe damage and extended power loss from Hurricane Irma, we took several measures to protect our conservation collections. We will discuss actions taken by conservation staff and lessons learned from this unique storm.
Jim Locklear, Lauritzen Gardens
“Rare Plant Survey Leads to Ecosystem Scale Research Initiative.”
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.
Jennifer Neale, Denver Botanic Gardens
“Standardizing data collection at Denver Botanic Gardens”
As scientific programs at Denver Botanic Gardens continue to grow we are working to standardize data collection across all projects to enhance and improve data utility. We have developed uniform protocols for documenting biodiversity for all studies whether they regard demographic studies, ecological monitoring, seed conservation, or floristic surveys. Collection of specimens and associated tissue samples has been incorporated into all studies, along with a methodical approach for tracking field photography, to ensure robustness, consistency, and cross-application of data. With the implementation of these new protocols we are readily able to share data with larger platforms such as the Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN), Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio), and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).
Valerie C. Pence, center for conservation and research of endangered wildlife, Cincinnati zoo and botanical garden
“Conserving Wild Exceptional Species. Case Study: Crotalaria avonensis”
Crotalaria avonensis is an endangered legume endemic to Florida that produces few seeds. In vitro shoot cultures of multiple genotypes have been grown at CREW to provide genetic diversity for restoration and for tissue cryopreservation. These cultures harbor a bacterium, identified as Paenibacillus sp., which may be a natural endophyte in the species. The bacterium grows slowly and does not appear to inhibit the in vitro propagation of the species, but its effect on the recovery of shoot tips after the stress of cryopreservation was investigated. Samples banked using encapsulation vitrification and representing 63 genotypes were evaluated after 4 – 15 years in liquid nitrogen. The rate of recovery growth of samples with visible bacteria was significantly less than samples without bacteria. Similarly, when newly banked shoot tips of 15 genotypes were cryopreserved using an improved technique, droplet vitrification, and were recovered, the presence of antibiotic in the medium significantly increased the percent of shoot tips showing recovery growth. Whereas C. avonensis shoots can be propagated, rooted, and acclimatized in the presence of this bacterium, recovery after the stress of cryopreservation is reduced when the bacteria are present. An increasing number of plant species are being shown to have endophytes in the wild and removing such endophytes may not be possible or desirable in culture. These results with C. avonensis demonstrate the potential for controlling the negative effects of such microorganisms in vitro. This is one example of the particular challenges that may be presented in working with wild species and conserving endangered exceptional plants. Supported in part by grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Johnny Randall1, Michael Kunz1, Jamie Winshell2, Corbin D. Jones2, Gregory P. Copenhaver2
1North Carolina Botanical Garden, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; 2Department of Biology and Integrative Program for Biological & Genome Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“Range-wide ex situ seed conservation and population genetic architecture analysis in Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)”
Venus’ flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is the most widely recognized carnivorous plant, and endemic to only 100 km landward radius around Wilmington, North Carolina, USA. Although a few large populations occur on protected lands, the number of individuals is declining, entire populations are being extirpated, and a seemingly secure species is now vulnerable to local extinction and loss of wild genetic variation. We used Restriction site-Associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) to evaluate the genetic architecture of Venus flytrap populations across its entire range. In addition, we collected and banked over 25,000 seeds from 20 populations as a long-term conservation resource. Initial analysis of 160 RAD-seq derived markers indicate limited genetic variation within the first population sampled. Genetic variation was surprisingly heterogeneous across loci with some populations harboring appreciable variation and others harboring next to none. This initial analysis is ongoing for approximately 150 populations to provide a high-resolution assessment of the existing genetic variation, which will help guide future conservation efforts and understand species phylogeography.
David Remucal, University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
“Growing a Database.”
We have been struggling with a propagation database. This has been of particular interest as our orchid conservation program has grown, we have needed a way to track individual maternal sources or populations from seed to potted plant as they go through different treatments and use different media. We began with an excel spreadsheet, but within a couple of years this spreadsheet has become an unwieldy monster. We need to move to a database that can handle our accessions, our inventory, and our propagation efforts, both orchid and non-orchid. We had originally tried to keep the database in-house. To that end, we worked with knowledgeable volunteers to develop an architecture for a database. We are now leaning towards using a pre-built product BUT the process of developing the framework for our own database was extremely informative and useful. It aided us not only in thinking about what we want in a database, but in many other ways, such as how we collect data, how we label our plants, and what we want to say with our data. It was a long process, but I feel we are much better equipped to find the right kind of database for our needs, or adjust the closest product we can find to suit our needs.
Heather Schneider, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
“Lessons learned from the Kew MSB Seed Conservation Techniques Training Course.”
In the fall of 2017, Dr. Heather Schneider from the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden attended the Kew Millennium Seed Bank Partnership’s three-week Seed Conservation Techniques Training Course. The course brought together conservationists from all over the world to improve conservation seed banking practices used by MSB partners. The course covered a variety of topics from seed biology to field work to processing and storage. At the end of the course, students were encouraged to create an action plan for improving their own seed bank techniques at home. Dr. Schneider will discuss some lessons learned and changes implemented at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden resulting from this course.
Emma Spence, Patrick Thompson, Sean Hoban, The Morton Arboretum
“Seed Sampling Improvements for Quercus boyntonii.”
The Morton Arboretum seeks to improve the conservation value and genetic representation in ex situ collections by developing guidance for sampling seed. One example regards IUCN Critically Endangered Quercus boyntonii (Boynton sand post oak), which is endemic to Alabama and only occurs on exposed sandstone outcrops. In situ threats include overcrowding by invasive species, off trail disturbance by humans, and the threat of wildfires. To help safeguard this species in case wild populations are lost, we compared genetic diversity of wild Quercus boyntonii populations to ex situ collections. We collected 246 individuals from 11 locations in the wild and 77 samples from 14 botanic gardens across the United States. We used microsatellite DNA markers to quantify genetic variation existing in the wild samples and calculate the proportion of genetic variation that exists in ex situ collections. This is a direct measure of the success of the collective efforts to build conservation collections. We found that current ex situ collections capture approximately 78% of overall genetic diversity, and 100% of common alleles. We also used a resampling technique to determine how efficient this collection is, and we showed that a smaller ex situ collection may be sufficient if it is carefully planned. The overall message is that ex situ collections of a taxon spread across a number of institutions can safeguard a species’ genetic diversity. This work is part of a large, multi-institution project in which genetic variation in ex situ collections of 10 species will be quantified. Our end goal is to provide advice to the garden community about how to establish and maintain ex situ tree collections, which includes initiatives to distribute germplasm collaboratively.
Anita Tiller and Suzzanne Chapman, Mercer Botanic Gardens
“Collection Maintenance Strategies: A Case Study at Mercer Botanic Gardens.”
Mercer Botanic Gardens, a Harris County(HC) Precinct 4(P4) Parks facility is susceptible to periodic floods. Rainfall in the drainage basin of Cypress Creek, adjacent to Mercer, ranged from 35-50” during the course of Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. As a participating institution for the CPC, Mercer maintains a seed bank, conservation nursery, display garden and a prairie preserve. The Mercer Botanical Center (MBC), Mercer’s research facility received 8-9” of flood water. The seed bank within the MBC received no damage since collections remained above flood water and no power was lost due to the building’s standby generator. Mercer’s CPC nursery received over 10’ of flood water. Even though plant stock remained under water for about 5 days, the collections suffered minimal damage. Mercer’s endangered species display garden received about 8’ of flood water for about 5 days. Some display plants were lost and others are recovering. Mercer’s conservation staff have much experience with preventative disaster maintenance strategies, thus conservation collections suffered minimal loss due to our maintenance protocols and diligent post flood cleanup. Fall 2017 surveys and seed collections were completed at the HC P4 Prairie Dawn Preserve. April 2018 surveys at the preserve of Hymenoxys texana found about 1,000 more plants than the 60 surveyed in 2016, though more than 10,000 less prior to the April and Tax Day floods of 2016. Immediate support received from HC P4 personnel, Mercer volunteers and from partners and donors, including the CPC, greatly assisted Mercer’s recovery.
Seana Walsh* and Dustin Wolkis, National Tropical Botanical Garden
“E Mau ana Ka ‘Ōhi‘a — Perpetuating ‘Ōhi‘a”
New fungal pathogens are threatening the most ecologically and culturally important native tree in Hawai‘i, ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros spp.). Two undescribed taxa of Ceratocystis cause Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death (ROD), destroying large stands of ‘ōhi‘a forest on Hawai‘i Island. In preparation for the potential future spread of ROD across the state, seeds of all Metrosideros taxa on all the Hawaiian islands need to be collected, banked, and reciprocated, for resistance testing and for use in potential, future reintroductions. One of the main challenges in initiating a coordinated effort to collect seeds on Kaua‘i is deciding how much seed to collect and from which locations. Seed zones, geographically delineated areas within which seed from originating zone can be transferred to help ensure material is ecologically appropriate for the local environment, were not established in Hawai‘i. Staff from the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) and Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, worked together to create generalized provisional seed zones for the island of Kaua‘i. Further, a proposal submitted to the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority by NTBG, to collect, bank and reciprocate seed collections, was supported. Across all 10 seed zones and all four Metrosideros taxa native to Kaua‘i, our collection goal for 2018 is between 6 and 20 million seeds, through both single and bulk seed collections, from over 1,000 individual trees. This work is currently underway.
Michael Way1, Clara Holmes2, and Sean Hoban3, 1Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK; 2Greenbelt Native Plant Center, USA; 3Morton Arboretum, USA
“Data Sharing: How effectively can collectors find data on existing seed collections?”
In 2017, we established a ‘gap analysis working group’ to assess and report the availability and usefulness of online native seed collection data from seven leading online data sources in order to help native seed collectors optimise their targets for additional collections. Volunteers reviewed online data sources and responded to a standardised list of questions to capture their experience of the depth and functionality of the data source. To visualise our findings we transformed results to simple numerical scores and projected on a six-node radar graph within a draft report. In addition, we asked curators of the data sources to fact-check our conclusions. We recommend that collection holders cooperate to publish standardised collection data that can be discovered, mapped, and evaluated using online tools. This will require enhanced cooperation between curators of botanical names, herbarium and seed curators, together with quality communication with the users of seed collections amongst the research, conservation and ecological restoration community. We discuss several innovative solutions addressing these recommendations that include Creative Commons, generalizing longitude and latitude data for widespread dissemination, analysing user communities to develop better tools for collectors, elucidating Seed Transfer Zones, and engaging seed collectors in the development of additional tools to assist seed collections.
Dennis Whigham and Julianne McGuinness, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC)
“NAOCC ‘s-Collaborative Orchid Seed Storage Project.”
The North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC) was developed by the Smithsonian and the U.S. Botanic Garden to conserve the diversity of native orchids in the U.S. and Canada. NAOCC ecologically-based conservation model has three guiding principles: Preservation through seed and fungal banks, Propagation, Education. NAOCC has a growing network of public and private collaborators working to collect and store seeds of native orchids to further the understanding their ecology, preserve genetic diversity, and provide material for use in research that supports propagation and restoration efforts. NAOCC’s collaborative model for orchid conservation is guiding a new project to develop best practices and storage protocols for orchid seeds and their fungal associates. To address the urgent need for evidence-based standardized procedures, NAOCC and a number of its collaborators will study storage practices, conduct germination tests, and develop protocols for each species. Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) took the lead on a grant application to the IMLS for funding for this project. NAOCC joins CBG, the New England Wild Flower Society, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Illinois College, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank, and the Naples Botanical Garden to conduct the first systematic analysis of its kind regarding seed storage practices for North American native orchid species.
Jordan Wood, Jeremie Fant, Andrea Kramer and Kay Havens, Chicago Botanic Garden
“Using a zoo model to conserve genetic diversity of critically endangered species ex situ.”
Genetics becomes important whenever populations become small (<100). This includes loss of genetic diversity from drift, increased expression of deleterious genes due to inbreeding, and limiting local adaptation. Since many species of plants are able to be seed banked, it is possible to maintain numbers well above these critical genetic thresholds. However for exceptional species, which can only be maintained as living plants, or for critically endangered species where remaining individuals are already below these numbers, the need to consider the remaining genetic diversity becomes critical. Importantly, the management focus shifts from saving a population to preserving each genetically unique individual. When you have such small numbers, it is critical to know how each individual contributes to the overall genetic diversity remaining. We are working with National Tropical Botanic Gardens (Hawaiʻi) to develop a multi-institution species management and breeding plan for Ālula (Brighamia insignis) that will ultimately support its restoration to the wild. To do this we are working with scientists at the Chicago Zoological Society to modify management software that incorporates genetics and demography information to maintain the long-term health of their captive populations of animals over the long term. Through this case study, we hope to develop collections management practices for plants that preserve important genetic diversity while identifying genetically appropriate individuals to using in crosses and that can ultimately be used to create resilient populations that can be used in reintroductions.
Peter Zale and Matt Taylor*, Longwood Gardens
“In vitro seed germination and seedling development of Spiranthes casei for ex situ conservation.”
Several species of Spiranthes native to the Eastern U.S. are considered rare, threatened or endangered by federal and state agencies. Using the Pennsylvania endangered Spiranthes casei as a model species, experiments were designed to determine optimal conditions for in vitro seed germination and seedling development. Seeds were collected in November 2015 from 10 individual plants found in three subpopulations in Elk and McKean counties, Pennsylvania, and air-dried for six weeks. Seeds were surface sterilized for 10 or three minutes in a 10% bleach solution, then plated onto a commercially available terrestrial orchid seed germination media: P723, M551 or K400 (Phytotechnology Labs, Shawnee Mission, KS) with 5 replicate plates. Seed germination ranged from 24 to 60 % and occurred on all three media only with the 3-minute treatment. None of the seeds treated with bleach for 10-minutes germinated and visual inspection revealed badly damaged embryos. After shoot initiation, 150 seedlings were transferred to individual test tubes on one of two media (P723 or P658) and each was given one of the three 24-hour light/dark photoperiod treatments for 10 months: 24/0, 18/6, or 0/24. Seedling survival and growth occurred in all treatments, but seedlings on P723 with the 24/0 or 16/8 photoperiod treatments had a significantly greater fresh weight, leaf length, number of roots and root length than light treatments on P658 and dark treatments. Results indicate Spiranthes seeds can be damaged by extended chemical scarification times and the light is essential for optimal seedling growth.