Cornell Botanic Gardens Conservation and Climate Actions

Cornell Botanic Gardens has been working on multiple fronts to conserve two globally rare plants, while also pursuing efforts to address the climate emergency and social and environmental justice.

Conservation efforts for the American Globeflower (Trollius laxus ssp. laxus) include ex situ seed banking efforts for five upstate New York populations and in situ conservation within two Gardens’ owned natural areas. Experimental canopy thinning increased light by 5% to 19% available light in one natural area population, but globeflower numbers declined an additional 5%. In an augmentation of 334 outplanted individuals, only three individuals survived five years post-introduction.

Conservation work for another rare species, Leedy’s Roseroot (Rhodiola integrifolia ssp. Leedyi, T1, FT, S1 (NY)), has focused on ex situ seed banking and reintroduction projects. One involved a partnership with The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and NYS Parks in the introduction of 135 individuals, while a second involved the successful propagation and introduction of 12 individuals into a campus natural area.

The Gardens is also pursuing novel strategies to address the climate emergency through the lens of social and environmental justice. As a strategy to help Cornell meet its ambitious climate neutral campus goal by 2035, we are pursuing afforestation and habitat restoration of Cornell-owned lands to sequester and offset an additional 24,730 MTCO2 annually. But we also see this as an opportunity to begin to address the University’s founding legacy, where it received nearly one million acres of disposed Indigenous lands through the Morrill “Land Grant” Act. To meet the moment, we envision how Cornell can go beyond simply afforesting degraded lands, to restoring, or healing, these lands in conjunction with students and Indigenous communities as part of the University offering tangible actions related to indigenous dispossessed lands.