Texas Plant Conservation
Plant diversity is being lost at an alarming rate. It is this same diversity that supports human livelihoods and many of our most precious natural resources. One of BRIT’s major goals is to raise awareness of the value plants bring to life, and the threats they face worldwide. BRIT is committed to working toward conserving plant diversity at home in Texas, and other regions where we work, including Baja California and the southeastern U.S. These regions are home to millions of people and are part of major biodiversity hotspots, in which plant diversity is abnormally high and being lost at an alarming rate. BRIT’s conservation efforts strive to protect and conserve the plant diversity of these remarkable regions.
In May of 2016 Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) representatives from participating institutions across the state met in Fort Worth to begin discussing plans for the creation of a statewide conservation strategy. This strategy would seek to unite conservation organizations in a collaborative network. By outlining clearly defined goals, the strategy would positively impact plant conservation statewide. The goals will be based on the 16 conservation targets identified by the Convention on Biological Diversity in the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC). In order to inform the contents of the statewide strategy, BRIT is conducting a survey of conservation organizations and professionals across Texas. To complete the survey please click here. The survey will be open until October 15, 2016 and results will be shared at the Texas Plant Conservation Conference in November 2016. Texas CPC members will have a follow up meeting in Fort Worth in November 2016 to continue discussions.
Review of Four Species of Greatest Conservation Need in North Texas
In the fall of 2015, BRIT Researcher Kim Taylor was awarded a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Conservation License Plate Fund to study four rare species in north central Texas: Pediomelum cyphocalyx (turnip-root scurfpea), Pediomelum reverchonii (Reverchon’s scurfpea), Physaria engelmannii (Engelmann’s bladderpod), and Schoenoplectiella hallii (Hall’s bulrush). The 2012 Texas Conservation Action Plan (TCAP) for the Cross Timbers Region identifies the lack of information and lack of processing of existing data for Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) as two major issues for the region. Advancing the available knowledge about what plants grow in Texas, their distributions, and their conservation status is one of BRIT’s primary conservation goals as well as one of the objectives of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. Little information is available about the distribution and habitat needs of these species and little has been done with what data does exist. Without a thorough understanding of the true status of these rare species, informed conservation decisions cannot be made to protect them. The goal of the project is to increase our understanding of the status, distribution, and threats to these rare species.
Pediomelum reverchonii (Reverchon's scurfpea)
Pediomelum reverchonii was first discovered by Julien Reverchon in 1877 from “rocky prairies” in Hood and Johnson counties, Texas. Though he first discovered the plant, Reverchon did not realize at the time that it was a new species. He identified the plant as Psoralea cyphocalyx. Almost 10 years later, Sereno Watson, a botanist from Harvard, examined the herbarium specimens and realized Reverchon had discovered something new. In 1886 he described it as a new species, giving it the name Psoralea reverchonii in honor of Julien Reverchon (the genus name was later changed from Psoralea to Pediomelum). The species is currently known from Texas and Oklahoma and is believed to be endemic to limestone prairies and outcrops of the Fort Worth Prairie ecoregion. This G3/S2 species is highly limited in range with 15 populations known from Oklahoma and only 10 in Texas, though information on the species’ distribution in Texas is sparse. In the summer of 2016, BRIT researchers revisited the 10 known Texas populations to conduct population assessments and to analyze the habitat. In addition, examination of herbarium specimens and interviews with regional botanists identified several more potential populations. To date, nine previously undocumented populations have been visited. Work on this species will continue through 2017.
Texas Plant Conservation Conference
BRIT will be co-hosted the 2016 Texas Plant Conservation Conference. This collaboration with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Fort Worth Botanic Garden brought together botanists and conservation scientists from across the state.