ISSN 1188-603X

No. 229 August 8, 1999 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


From: Ed Schreiner []

It is with great sadness I must report that we have lost another great Pacific Northwest botanist, dear friend and mentor. Nelsa Buckingham came to botany some 25 years ago, learning the field from "scratch" after age 45. She soon distinguished herself as a meticulous and outstanding botanist championing what I have called the "Olympocentric" view.

The Olympic Peninsula in the northwest corner of Washington State became her laboratory. She discovered (with husband "Buck" and Ed Tisch among others) well over 100 plants not known to occur on the Olympic Peninsula (published in Madrono, the 1983 November Supplement). It became evident to her that the Olympic Peninsula contained an incredibly rich flora and served as a highly complex refugium for plants during past glaciations as well as the Holocene warm period. We had many great discussions about how most people thought that plants simply migrated south of Puget Sound during the last glaciation (Vashon Stade, Fraser Glaciation). The theory being that plants moved south and then returned north as the ice melted. Nelsa always thought that it would be a lot easier for plants to have survived the glaciation in the Olympic Mountains and along the Coast and then returned to Puget Sound. Her detailed geological, glacial, climatic, and phytogeographic research convinced her (and me as well as others) that her hypothesis justified the "Olympocentric" view. (Indeed, we think this is the only logical explanation for the distribution of Juniperus scopulorum in western Washington.) The high endemism (9), shared endemic plants and animals with Vancouver Island (6) and plants disjunct from: 600 miles to the north (Draba longipes), 300 miles east in the Rockies (Astragalus microcystis and others), and plants disjunct from Coastal Oregon (Whipplea modesta) all serve as evidence of this refugium. In addition, several plants are Coastal endemics that reach the southern extent of the ranges on the Olympic Peninsula (Gentiana douglasiana, Coptis trifolia).

Nelsa's most amazing accomplishment was the completion of the "Flora of the Olympic Peninsula" in 1995 [see BEN # 135]. This book culminated two decades of botanical research and represents her botanical career. If you haven't seen the book it is well worth a look. The work contains Nelsa's ideas on the origins of the Olympic Peninsula flora as well as numerous insights into the taxonomy of our plants. And, not least, the book attempts to reconcile Hitchcock and Cronquist nomenclature with more modern works.

Born in Chicago to Robert and Florence Virginia Morrison, Nelsa attended the Radcliffe College division of Harvard University, where she carried a double major in anthropology and archaeology, until her junior year when she left school to get married. Later at age 45 she returned to the classroom at Peninsula College (Port Angeles, WA), then went on to get her bachelor's degree in plant ecology from the Evergreen State College near Olympia, WA.

Her resume included foreman of asparagus cutters, natural history museum assistant curator, Seattle Trust and Savings Bank teller, and Camp Fire leader. As a research botanist Mrs. Buckingham devoted herself to the study of the Olympic Peninsula flora.

Nelsa was a founding member of the Washington Native Plant Society, worked for and participated in the Washington Natural Heritage Program, and was an Olympic National Park volunteer for more than 20 years. In 1991, she received both the National Park Service Outstanding Volunteer Award and, from KING-5 TV in Seattle, recognition from Project Environment Volunteers Making a Difference. In her retirement she taught creative arts and acrylic painting.

Nelsa left us thousands of specimens, photographs, and of course, the Flora. Thank you, Nelsa, for enriching our lives - we will miss you.



From: Don Gayton []

Ecological monitoring in British Columbia has suffered a profound setback. After three years of operation, Forest Renewal BC funding for the Range Reference Areas Program is being cancelled. Range Reference Areas (RRA's) are permanent, fenced installations with detailed long-term vegetation monitoring plots, essential for defining rangeland communities and successional patterns, and tracking the impacts of disturbances such as livestock grazing, wildlife, weeds, fire, forest ingrowth and encroachment.

It was a productive three years. A team consisting of Fred Knezevich in Williams Lake, Perry Grilz/Tracie Leys-Schirok in Prince George, Rick Tucker in Kamloops and Don Gayton in Nelson, under the leadership of Matt Fairbarns, an indefatigable ecologist in Victoria. Fairbarns established a statistically defensible experimental design for the RRAs; fenced exclosures were to be a minimum of 1 hectare in size, located in key biogeoclimatic subzones/site series, with randomized sampling transects and a minimum of fifty observations in each treatment. In the first year, the group took vegetation measurements using the traditional Daubenmire cover estimates, but after much discussion, Fairbarns introduced point intercept, a much more precise and unbiased method of monitoring vegetation.

The RRA field team hit the ground running, establishing and monitoring some 260 exclosures in the three years, upgrading and remeasuring another one hundred existing exclosures, and centralizing all the diverse data sources.

The range and distribution of these RRA's is truly impressive, from the Sikanni Chief area northwest of Fort Saint John, to the Junction range south of Riske Creek, to the spectacular Nicola Grasslands near Merritt and to Dragon Flats, an alpine meadow complex north of Grand Forks. Many riparian exclosures were established as well. As a result of the Program, the Province now as sites in all the major ecosystems grazed by livestock, including forested, riparian and alpine types. Besides monitoring the grazing activity of domestic cattle, specific RRA's were also established to monitor the impacts of pack horses, wild sheep, elk and bison.

"You can't manage if you don't monitor." This truism is particularly appropriate to grasslands and dry forests, where ecological change is frequently slow and difficult to detect. Fairbarns and the RRA team recognized the challenge of distinguishing between native bunchgrasses, low-seral native grasses and introduced grasses, something many earlier range managers ignored. So we all spent the requisite "hard time" on hands and knees in the field, hunched over microscopes and floras in the office, and poring over mounted specimens. The results were worth it; as we now have the first comprehensive, Province-wide record of grazed and ungrazed plant communities, as well as data on the abundance (and scarcity) of the key native fescues, agropyrons and stipas, the ecological backbone of British Columbia's grasslands.

Learning from previous unsuccessful range monitoring attempts, we hammered away at rigorous documentation, data analysis, and data storage. In contrast to much of the earlier work, we made sure the RRA plot layout and monitoring methodology were consistent, and absolutely explicit. Shane Ford was brought on to help build a Province-wide database for the monitoring data, and as a result the government-wide VENUS software was rewritten to accommodate our data (the RRA section is now affectionately known as "Venus de Moo"). This initial data set, if added to over time, will become an invaluable resource for defining Potential Natural Community, seral stage, and the impacts of disturbance.

A number of RRA products are now available to the interested public; summary information is available at and for the RRAs of the Nelson Region at

Detailed summaries of data will become available through VENUS shortly.

So, what's the problem? If the exclosures are built and the data captured, why does the RRA program need to carry on? There are two reasons -- time, and expertise.

Fence off a grazed, upland range community and monitor the vegetation. For the first three years virtually nothing happens. After five years, just a few tantalizing clues. After ten years we see definite succession taking place, which will then continue to evolve for the next twenty to forty years before a steady state is reached. During that time span, dozens of other questions emerge. What types of rotations best accelerate succession? Can we meet Biodiversity obligations? What happens to the cryptogamic community? Have we properly defined the Potential Natural Community? How do noxious weeds respond? What about changes to insect, and bird populations?

It also takes time to build and maintain field expertise; the people who know rangeland plant taxonomy and ecology are scattered thinly on the British Columbia landscape, and their ranks get thinner all the time, as they give up, move away, or retire.

The RRA program was truly innovative in Canada. No other jurisdiction has a unified, consistent program solely dedicated to understanding ecosystems over such a broad area. The team that built it was unique also. As a veteran of many working groups over the course of my career, the team of Fairbarns, Ford, Grilz, Knezevich, Leys-Schirok and Tucker stands as one of the finest.

It is ironic that the RRA program is being scrapped just as the British Columbia public is awakening to the ecological and esthetic value of our grasslands, and to the many threats to their continued existence.


Wiedemann, Alfred M., La Rea J. Dennis, & Frank H. Smith. 1999.
Plants of the Oregon coastal dunes. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, OR. 120 p. ISBN 0-87071-457-0 [soft cover] Cost: US$12.95
Available from:
Oregon State University Press
101 Waldo Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331-6407
Ph: 541-737-3166, fax: 541-737-3170

This book was originally published in 1969 and has served as a guide to natural history of the Oregon coastal dunes and to the plants found on them. The first two sections explain the natural history of dunes and describe plant communities associated with dunes and how they change over time. The final section provides an easy-to-use key to ninety common dune plants. Each species profile includes a photograph, a detailed description, and information on habitat and range. This new edition of the book considers changes in dune areas in recent decades, notes conservation efforts, and updates scientific names.