Monitoring wild reference populations to determine future conservation actions

Kristin Haskins and Sheila Murray,The Arboretum at Flagstaff

In 2013, The Arboretum at Flagstaff partnered with the Center for Plant Conservation and the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico to examine conservation concerns of Chihuahua scurfpea (Pediomelum pentaphyllum), a tuber-forming legume. Our primary objective was to determine any changes in population size. In 2015, we established two demography study plots representing two different populations. The ability to retract aboveground tissues underneath the soil is a common drought adaptation found in desert-dwelling species. We were challenged in establishing these plots by the ephemeral nature of aboveground presence of biomass needed to identify the species. The timing of plot site selection coincided with a winter that received average to above average precipitation, improving the likelihood of scurfpea plant emergence, and insuring that plots were indeed placed to capture multiple individuals. Furthermore, the duration of annual monitoring visits was set at 6-years to capture the minimum required 3-years of data for determining population projections, despite potentially uncooperative weather patterns. We recently collected our 5th year of data. Upon completion, these data will be analyzed and suggestions shared with land managers at the BLM in New Mexico and Arizona.