Safeguarding to Recovery: Georgia Rockcress Case Study

Dr. Michele Elmore, US Fish & Wildlife Service Lindsay Dombroskie, Texas A & M University, Natural Resources Institute

Georgia rockcress (Arabis georgiana Harper) is a short-lived perennial plant of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) endemic to Alabama and Georgia. In 2014, this species was listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act due to ongoing threats from development that either destroys or degrades habitat, and facilitates the invasion of nonnative species. The Service is currently conducting a 5-Year Status Review of the species and will develop a formal Recovery Plan. To support the 5-Year Status Review and development of the Recovery Plan a Species Status Assessment (SSA) was conducted. The SSA considers what the species needs to maintain longterm viability by characterizing the status of the species in terms of its resiliency, redundancy, and representation (together the 3Rs). Population resiliency was measured by population size, and habitat suitability, degradation and protection. Species redundancy and representation was measured by the number of populations and how they are distributed across genetic groups. In situ safeguarding has the potential to contribute to all 3Rs via population augmentations, reintroductions, and introductions. Safeguarding projects by the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance has preserved genetic stock from several Georgia populations which has contributed to multiple experimental in situ safeguarding efforts to further conserve the species. Success of these in situ conservation efforts, when combined with habitat protection and management, may prove to be essential to prevent further decline of the species in the wild and ultimately lead to recovery (delisting) of the species. We will discuss several future scenarios from the SSA that included protection, management and in situ safeguarding. We will explore next steps that include development of a range-wide Georgia rockcress Recovery Plan and recovery strategy where we consider how to move from experimental in situ safeguarding to species recovery.