Three petals, three partners, three genera: Results of an innovative partnership for Trillium conservation

Clayton Meredith, ABQ Bio-Park

In a partnership between the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC), NatureServe, and ABQ BioPark, conservation status assessments and comprehensive species action plans are being developed for select medicinal plant taxa. This effort is part of a larger collaboration between zoos, gardens, and aquaria and the IUCN SSC, which aims to build a more robust Red List, thereby strengthening the first component in the Assess-Plan-Act model. A recent assessment of the conservation status of the genus Trillium in North America demonstrates the potential outcomes of such partnerships and the role public gardens can play in conservation initiatives. In 2019 this collaborative effort sought to generate IUCN Red List assessments, update NatureServe global ranks, and develop a comprehensive conservation plan for the genus Trillium. Through the assessment process, major threats to the genus and areas where additional research is needed were identified. Overabundance of white-tailed deer and habitat degradation caused by feral pigs are the most pervasive threats to the genus, but minor threats were identified at a regional scale which warrant investigation in other parts of the genus’ range. The southern Appalachian region is the center of Trillium diversity and is also at the confluence of several major threats to the genus. However, threats can be further distinguished based on habitat type and impact with respect to reproductive biology, which allows for targeted conservation initiatives. This approach maximizes the efficiency of these plans and allows for resources to be used effectively to promote plant conservation. This supra-species level approach has the potential to streamline conservation initiatives and build partnerships for large scale programs reducing extinction risk for large numbers of species simultaneously.