|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 249 April 22, firstname.lastname@example.org||Victoria, B.C.|
The Alaska Rare Plant Forum held its annual meeting at the BLM-Fairbanks Field Office on April 6 and 7, 2000. The University of Alaska Herbarium and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Arctic Wildlife Refuge, were co-hosts. The meeting covered an interesting array of botanical topics and people were able to coordinate work for the upcoming field season. The group's geographic area of interest includes Alaska, adjacent Russia, Yukon and British Columbia.
Alan Batten, Acting Herbarium Curator and Research Associate at the University of Alaska Museum (ALA) provided a Herbarium update. The Herbarium recently acquired 1700 specimens from a herbarium in Vladivostok (VLA); most of the plants were collected in the Russian Far East. Last summer Herb Wagner visited the herbarium while on a Botrychium collecting trip to Alaska. Rob Soreng of the Smithsonian will spend a couple of months at the Herbarium and in central Alaska working on Poa.
Dave Murray, Herbarium Curator Emeritus, introduced recent publications of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and the Pan Arctic Flora project (PAF). He also talked about developments in the Flora of North America project, including new funding and the increased frequency of volume publication (two a year).
Phil Caswell, botany volunteer extraordinaire, gave an update of his Lake Clark National Park inventory, his total species count for the Park is just shy of 700 species. This next summer he will be hunting for plants in the Kluane National Park in the Yukon. Bruce Bennett, Yukon Fish and Wildlife Branch provided updates on his botanical work in the Yukon. Carl Roland, Denali National Park, described his floristic inventory of Denali National Park. Most previous plant surveys have concentrated along transportation corridors; Carl has been taking great pains to broaden the geographic scope of surveys in the park.
Carolyn Parker of the Herbarium gave a presentation about her participation in the Bureau of Land Management Lime Hills-Lyman Hills plant inventory. She also reported on her month of plant surveys on Attu Island, where she found plants rare to Alaska. There are a few taxa that are common in Kamchatka, and also common on Attu, but only reach the Near Islands (Attu and nearby Aggatu and Shemya) and are not known from further east. Attu and the western Aleutians in general have a very high number of rare plants relative to the rest of Alaska.
Mary Stensvold, U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Region, gave a presentation about moonwort ferns and their conservation status in southern Alaska. Three new species of Botrychium have been identified in southern Alaska; their identity has been verified by enzyme electrophoresis. Nancy Robertson, Arctic Plant Germplasm Repository, talked about viruses in native Alaskan plants, her work with the viruses, and how to look for infected plants. Peter Neitlich, Bering Land Bridge National Park, talked about the macrolichens of Gates of the Arctic National Park, focusing on inventory, status assessment, and management implications. John Delapp, Forest Service, Chugach National Forest is facilitating two Salix workshops to be lead by George Argus. These will be held early this summer at the Alaska Plant Materials Center, Palmer (near Anchorage). Bruce Bennett is facilitating a Salix workshop at Whitehorse.
Amy Denton, (future!) Herbarium Curator and Assistant Professor of Biology, presented a slide show about her two trips to Eastern Tibet where she looked at Rhododendron. She was collecting material to help with questions about the phylogenetic relationships within Rhododendron.
Jack Frost, Emeritus Professor of Humanities, Alaska Pacific University, gave a fascinating presentation about Steller's 1741 plant collecting on Kayak Island, his subsequent adventures, and shipwreck on Bering Island.
Next year's meeting will be held on April 5 and 6, 2001, in Anchorage.
The Native Plant Society of British Columbia provides a variety of workshops that are suitable for botanists, naturalists, and native plant gardeners:
Only 30 km west of downtown Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory can be found a unique natural area known as the Takhini Salt Flats. The formation of alkaline flats is not an unusual situation in south central Yukon however the assemblage of halophytes found here is unlike any other known in Yukon and perhaps any area north of 60 deg. N.
The words "annual" and "native" rarely appear in the same sentence when describing the flora of Yukon. In fact only about 120 species (10% of the flora) are annuals and only 43 of those are native. Being an annual may not be a good strategy for northern plants where one bad summer could mean the demise of a species. Many of the introduced annuals may no longer persist in the flora, having been reported from single localities earlier in the century and not collected since. Nine of the native annuals are found at the Takhini Salt Flats and three of these are not known from any other location in Yukon. These are Atriplex alaskensis, Atriplex subspicata and Aster brachyactis. Salicornia europaea is known from only one other location.
The Takhini Salt Flats occupies approximately 640 hectares including three small lakes, one of which nearly dries up completely each year. The alkaline conditions are formed when artesian springs bring dissolved minerals to the surface, infusing the area with minerals such as sodium sulfates. Permafrost prevents the salts from being washed deeply into the soil. As summer progresses, evaporation draws more crystals to the surface. Soon large crystals are formed on the surface, unlike the white crust of other alkaline soils in the region. This results in an unusual habitat type described as a "forested steppe." Geologists, soil scientists, entomologists and botanists have all remarked about the uniqueness of the area.
Salt lakes can be good indicators of climate change, especially those that do not have inlets and outlets. The sediments and the invertebrates within them are sensitive to changes in salinity. By looking at invertebrates in the sediments, it is possible to determine salinity changes over time. Professor R. Pienitz of Laval University is presently looking at the invertebrates in the sediments taken from these lakes.
A long-standing grazing lease within the Takhini Salt Flats area has recently not been renewed pending the result of Land Claim discussions with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. The area was deemed to be unfit for Rural Residential Housing Development due to the underlying soil structure. Recently the First Nation has been exploring the option of nominating the area as a Special Management Area. Still three outstanding agricultural applications occur within the flats, so the future for this area has yet to be decided. There is still a chance we may lose this area to development before its uniqueness can be fully studied and understood.
Preliminary List of Plants of the Takhini Salt Flats
(Nomenclature according to W.J. Cody. 1996. Flora of the Yukon Territory.)
* collected and confirmed by W.J. Cody
I = introduced species
R = species listed on the Yukon tracking list