Texas Plant Conservation Program

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 around the world.

The Texas Plant Conservation Program is led by Conservation Research Botanist Kim Norton Taylor.

Current Research

Texas Plant Conservation Conference

The Texas Plant Conservation Conference is a professional-level meeting serving scientists, land managers, state and federal agencies, local governments, and other professionals with an interest in plant conservation in Texas and adjacent regions. Conference attendees explore current research and conservation projects on rare plants, native plant communities, plant monitoring methods, and plant management practices for native Texas plants. This conference is ideal for conservation organizations, agencies, academics and members of the public interested in native plant conservation.

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NatureServe Conservation Status Ranks

NatureServe Conservation Status Ranks assess the conservation status of species at the global, national, and sub-national scale (G-rank, N-rank, and S-rank, respectively). These ranks assess the risk of species extinction at the global scale, or extirpation at the national and subnational scales. A standardized methodology and rank calculator have been developed to remove the ambiguity from the process of assigning ranks and ensure a transparent, consistent, and rigorous assessment to justify ranks.

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Rare Plant Surveys and Monitoring

Just under 450 plant species are considered rare in the state of Texas. For many of these, a lack of basic information on where they grow is the biggest hindrance to their conservation. Little information is available about the distribution and habitat needs of many rare species, and little has been done with what data does exist. This knowledge gap makes it difficult to prioritize conservation objectives.

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Mapping Rare Plants on Roadsides

BRIT is partnering with Tarleton State University to create predictive habitat maps of rare species for the Texas Department of Transportation. BRIT is working to better understand the habitat needs and preferences of 17 rare species by examining herbarium specimens and the scientific literature. This information will be mapped to show areas where each of the rare species is most likely to occur.

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Conservation Seed Laboratory and Seed Bank

Texas is home to 448 rare vascular plant species, including 113 species categorized by NatureServe as Critically Imperiled (G1) and at high risk for extinction. For many of these species only a handful of individual plants remain in the wild. These plants are faced with increasing levels of threats, with population growth and the resulting development, land use changes, invasive species, and now climate change all threatening to push our rarest species closer to extinction.

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Past Research

Rare Plant Mapping

Over the past decade, citizen science, the use of volunteers to collect data or conduct research, has increased in popularity. It has enabled scientists to collect large amounts of data using minimal resources and time. The use of citizen scientists to collect data is more cost effective than traditional science, even when experts are used to verify data collected (Gardiner et al. 2012).

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Plant Risk Evaluator

Through a 2017 Farm Bill grant, 4 botanic gardens across the nation commenced deployment of the PRE™ (Plant Risk Evaluator) tool and database. The PRE tool is a new plant risk assessment platform to address “what’s invasive?” while equipping the horticultural trade with a science-based and collaborative decision support tool. Each botanic garden partner assessed 50 plants of interest or contention within their region, for a total of 200 regional assessments. BRIT partnered with the Fort Worth Botanic Garden to evaluate species specific to Texas.

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