|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 338 December 2, firstname.lastname@example.org||Victoria, B.C.|
Russia formally notified the United Nations on November 18, 2004 of its acceptance of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, starting a three-month countdown for the long-debated 1997 pact to come into force.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the protocol into law earlier this month, allowing it to take effect in 128 nations that ratified it even as the United States has refused to join.
The protocol, ratified by both houses of Russia's parliament last month, commits 55 industrialized nations to making significant cuts in emissions of gases like carbon dioxide by 2012.
Developing nations like Brazil, China, India and Indonesia are also parties to the protocol but do not have emission reduction targets.
The United States and Australia have rejected the pact, which Putin signed on Nov. 4 and which could not have come into effect without Russia, which accounted for 17 percent of carbon dioxide emission in 1990. The United States accounted for 36 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in 1990.
Russia joined the protocol because the commitment would press the country to modernize its economy and protect the environment, the country's foreign ministry said in Moscow.
Industrialized countries will have until 2012 to cut their collective emissions of six key greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below the 1990 level.
Scientists have already detected many early signals of global warming, including the shrinking of mountain glaciers and Arctic and Antarctic sea-ice, reduced ice cover on lakes and rivers, longer summer growing seasons, changes in the arrival and departure dates of migratory birds, as well as the spread of many insects and plants toward the poles.
Lesica, P. Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA 59812 [email@example.com] and
McCune, B. Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA 97331-2902 [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Climate change is thought to drive extirpation and migration of species, especially at range margins. Thus, populations of arctic-alpine plants at the southern periphery of their range should respond rapidly to projected global warming. We monitored the abundance of seven arctic-alpine vascular plants at or near the southern limits of their ranges at three sites in Glacier National Park, Montana from 1989 through 2002. We also recorded canopy cover of all plant species in sample plots once at the beginning and again at the end of the study.
For many species, detecting long-term population trends is confounded by short-term variation. Our study design employed temporal resampling of permanent plots and a multivariate repeated measures model that accounts for the effects of high frequency variation and allow assessment of the significance of long-term trends. Statistical analysis compares site-specific estimates of annual mean density between two time periods and uses between-plot within-site within-year variation to estimate error. Mean summer temperature during this period averaged 0.53 deg. C higher than the previous four decades.
Results of ordinations with non-metric multidimensional scaling suggested that vegetation moved toward the dry end of a moisture gradient at two sites during the course of the study. At the same time none of the peripheral arctic-alpine indicator species increased, but the density of Draba macounii rosettes declined by 64% (P=0.026); the number of Euphrasia arctica plants declined by 65% (P<0.001); the density of Gentiana glauca rosettes declined by 44% (P=0.048); and the number of Kobresia simpliciuscula tussocks declined by 31% (P<0.001).
We cannot rigorously infer causality from our descriptive study; however, changes in both indicator species and the vegetation matrix were consistent with predictions of climate-induced extirpation of high-elevation species and the northern migration of floras. Our results also suggest that species responded to the decade of warming individualistically with little relationship to growth form.
Darlingtonia californica Torrey, commonly known as the cobra lily or cobra pitcher plant, found predominantly alongside seeps in the coastal regions of Oregon and northern California. The monotypic genus Darlingtonia is unique amongst other genera within the Sarraceniaceae family in that it is the only genus found west of the Rocky Mountains. A number of other distinct characteristics set it apart from other North American pitcher plants (Sarracenia) making it a desirable addition to the collection of carnivorous plant enthusiasts. Darlingtonia employs a typical pitfall trap to capture prey, typical of all pitcher plants, with digestion occurring predominantly through bacterial action.
While Darlingtonia does not occur naturally in southern British Columbia, it is quite capable of surviving outdoors along the south-western coast and on Vancouver Island year round for numerous years, as evidenced by the success of this plant in many enthusiasts' collections.
Approximately five years ago (1999), a carnivorous plant enthusiast collected several ripe seed pods from a natural population in Oregon and brought them back to Vancouver, British Columbia. In the fall of 1999 the same enthusiast went to Vancouver Island and distributed the seed along the Bog Trail at Long Beach, between Ucluelet and Tofino.
In 2001, I traveled to Long Beach and visited the Bog Trail to determine if the Darlingtonia seed had germinated and plants had established themselves. While I did not confirm their presence, plants of Darlingtonia were spotted and investigated by British Columbia botanists (see the note below). As Darlingtonia is a slow grower (maturity may not be reached until plants are well over 6 years of age), and young plants have a prostrate habit, these small plants could have easily been overlooked. It would be of interest to confirm and document the location of any established plants plus their approximate age. As seed was only spread along the Bog Trail, other locations would be the result of other introductions or potentially a disjunct population.
In the October 2003, Tim Brigham and Alison Rimmer reported the presence of Darlingtonia californica in Pacific Rim National Park.
Also known as the California Pitcher-plant or Cobra-plant, this member of the Sarraceniaceae is not known to occur naturally north of Lane County in Oregon. Hitchcock and Cronquist (1973) noted that the species has been "transplanted into bogs in western Washington".
The Pacific Rim population was found in a boggy area dominated by a sparse cover of Kalmia occidentalis Small and Ledum groenlandicum Oeder with a carpet of various Sphagnum species.
Parks Canada staff carefully surveyed the area where they occurred in the autumn of 2003. They found several clumps within a small area three meters wide. The largest clump was only 5 cm in diameter and consisted of about 9 fully- developed "pitchers" and 4-6 partially-developed leaves. The fully-developed "pitchers" were less than 10 cm tall, in contrast with plants in Oregon which often have leaves up to 50 cm tall. The other clumps were much smaller and had fewer leaves. None of the plants showed any evidence of floral development. There was a week of cold weather in late November or early December and when the plants were checked in late January or February 2004, their foliage had turned brown and died.
The site was visited a number of times in the spring and summer of 2004 but only 3 clumps were found, still within the three meter wide area where they were first discovered. By late July the plants were still quite small and had not developed the mature "pitcher form". I expect the population will eventually fail. Hans Roemer and I searched a large area of peatland surrounding the plants but failed to find any more clumps. Barry Campbell and Ewan Brittain surveyed another wetland in the vicinty, also without luck.
Botanical gardens have been established for many purposes, from the teaching of medicine to assisting imperial domination. However, very few of these original purposes were still current by the end of the Second World War. In the 1950s and 1960s botanical gardens seemed to get by on the strength of being intrinsically "a good thing" and that was that. Then, inevitably, came the time of justification, and searching for a new purpose. This coincided with mounting concern about species extinction and the maturation of the World Wildlife Fund (as it then was) into an organization for plant conservation in addition to animal conservation. Botanical gardens quickly took up the challenge, but those were innocent days. I remember attending the second Kew conference in 1978 (Synge and Townsend 1979), and hearing a Kew botanist gently having to suggest to conference that "under-developed countries" referred to in the draft conference resolution should be changed to "developing countries". Early days indeed. Soon afterwards, in 1980, the World Conservation Strategy was published by IUCN, UNEP and WWF. Botanical gardens, now fully attuned to the winds of conservation, convened a few years later (1985) to take the initiative on the WCS for plants (Bramwell et al. 1987).
So what can ex situ collections of plants do for conservation? This was a question that was grappled with, largely successfully, by those early conferences. One problem (a paradox of ex situ conservation) is that the goal of much ex situ conservation is often slated to be in situ conservation. It is in the wild that plants can exist in the population numbers and ecological context sufficient and necessary for their long term survival and continued evolution. If this is the case, why not devote the resources directed to ex situ conservation directly to in situ conservation? Indeed ecological restoration using ex situ material is surprisingly uncommon. There are some notable exceptions however such as Sophora toromiro, which became extinct on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) but was reintroduced from botanic garden stock (Maunder et al. 2000). Of course there are dangers of using ex situ material for ecological restoration, as botanical gardens are well known for unintentional hybridization. In the case of Sophora there was no choice, as this plant was already extinct in the wild.
Botanical gardens are surprisingly risky places for plants: the collections are in a continual state of flux. The excellent record keeping that botanical gardens have maintained from the earliest days allow us to model this flux. It turns out to be rather like radioactive decay. Accessions in a botanical garden have a half- life. I calculated a half-life of around four years on the basis of some UK data (Cronk, 2001). Half of all new accessions are dead by four years, but a very few accessions (mainly woody plants) persist for very much longer. Four years hardly ensures long-term survival, but the odds can be stacked much more favourably by concentrating on woody plants or by seed banking. When I started working on the flora of St Helena I realised that the St Helena redwood, Trochetiopsis eruthroxylon, by then extinct in the wild, had been repeatedly introduced to UK botanic gardens, from the 18th century onwards, but that these plants had never persisted and so could not contribute to the conservation of the species. Instead, the species had been saved only by being taken into a few local private gardens on the island. Tropical foresters use this technique in a more organised way by establishing local seed orchards where the species occurs, or used to occur, and call it "circa situm" conservation (unfortunately the niceties of the Latin language deny us the symmetrical "circa situ" as circa is a preposition used only with the accusative).
Another strategy is to mimic the natural habitat and grow large populations (which has been called pro situ conservation, see Cronk 2001). The Conifer Conservation Programme in Edinburgh has done this with some magnificent simulacra of Chilean rainforest in the Scottish mountains. Generally speaking, however, it is cost-prohibitive to mount effective long term ex situ conservation of the actively growing plant. It is clear from this kind of analysis that some form of cryopreservation (e.g. of seed) is likely to be the only truly cost-effective and reliable means of long term ex situ conservation.
The complexity of the ex situ issue led people to look for indirect conservation uses of ex situ collections, which are just as important as uses in direct species survival. Heslop- Harrison long ago (1976) pointed out that ex situ collections are important for the science of conservation biology. Many features of importance to in situ conservation, such as reproductive physiology and breeding system, are difficult to study in the field but easy to study ex situ. However, the crowning glory of the indirect use of ex situ collections is public education. All plant conservation depends on the financial support of a willing public, whether donating through taxation or private gifts. The existence of conservation displays in botanic gardens has been of huge value in getting the plant conservation movement to where it is now.
Under the burden of all these considerations, ex situ conservation seemed to settle down to a maturity which was cautiously mindful of its limitations yet pleased with its modest strength. Or an least it seemed to. In 2000 there came a bombshell from Kew. The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, with several big financial backers, began a 128 million dollar (US) seed bank project for ex situ conservation. Kew's aim is to bank 24,000 species of plants by 2010. This is a massive vote of confidence for ex situ conservation. Detractors of the project protested that the same money spent on in situ conservation might arguably achieve more. However, ex situ conservation was now centre stage and to achieve its goals Kew has signed agreements with Western Australia, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Chile, Mexico, Egypt, Namibia, Jordan, South Africa, Lebanon, USA, Saudi Arabia, Mali, Malawi and Botswana. The concentration is largely on the dry tropics as the majority of species from the wet tropics have seeds which are recalcitrant to long term storage.
It is against this backdrop that this book appears, published by the Society for Ecological Restoration International. It is the definitive handbook of the art, focussed firmly on seed banking. After succinct prefatory material from Peter Raven and Ghillean Prance there are 18 chapters by active practitioners. Part one (5 chapters) covers policy, ethics and strategies. Part two (6 chapters) covers techniques - of seed banking, pollen storage and tissue culture. Part three (6 chapters) covers ecological and evolutionary issues. The final part (1 chapter and 4 appendices) covers guidelines and practical issues.
The authors and editors are to be congratulated on a useful guide, which is particularly welcome as a clear treatise on the practice and potential of seed banking. With the spotlight on seed banking and Kew's experience to build on, it is probably time for a more vigorous discussion of the efforts to seed bank the North American flora.
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