Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need: Plants in the Southeastern U.S.

Dr. Elizabeth Crisfield and Karen Terwilliger, Strategic Stewardship Initiative

State boundaries have always been invisible to biota. But now, as climate change shifts climatic regimes over the landscape, as more invasive species become established, as people move native and exotic species from place to place – regional collaborative conservation across state lines is needed more than ever to provide effective stewardship of native biodiversity. In concert with other regional conservation initiatives, one way to specifically communicate shared priorities for rare plants is by creating a list of Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need. These are species for which the 17 states and territories comprising the SePPCon footprint represent more than 50% of the plants’ native range and whose populations are in decline. In some cases, threats responsible for species’ declines are shared in the region and can be mitigated collaboratively. In other cases, genetic diversity in the SePPCon region can be studied to support stronger conservation programs. The Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need list can help communicate shared priority species between colleagues in agencies, academia, and non-profit conservation partners. The list can also facilitate inclusion of plants in the 2025 revisions of the State Wildlife Action Plans, as well as being referenced in grant proposal justifications to demonstrate the importance of research and other activities. In this presentation, we will explore the opportunity to develop a Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need list for plants in the SePPCon geographic area.