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Notre Dame biologists call for regulation of rare plant sales
Date:1/27/2011

People are increasingly obtaining endangered or threatened plants, often illegally, and moving them outside their native range, according to an article in the journal Nature by Patrick Shirey and Gary Lamberti in the department of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame.

According to their research last year, nearly 10 percent of the 753 plants listed as threatened and endangered under the US Endangered Species Act are being sold or, at least, advertised online. Many buyers are horticulturalists who want flowers for their gardens. But increasingly, anecdotal evidence suggests that online shoppers include individuals and citizen groups involved in 'assisted colonization' projects. Here, species or genetic subtypes at risk of extinction are moved to non-native environments in which they might thrive in the face of climate change, for instance.

Some private groups who want to protect the plants, such as the Torreya Guardians, are legally planting seedlings of the Florida torreya outside its current range to aid species conservation. However, Shirey urges government agencies to take more of a leadership role to monitor translocations because of the risks associated with introducing new species. The widespread transfer of endangered or threatened plants poses both environmental and economic risks.

Shirey and Lamberti cite other studies reporting that damage from invasive plant species costs more than $30 billion in the United States by damaging crops, pastures and ecosystems. One example is the Australian paperbark tree which is a noxious weed in the United States that causes millions of dollars of damage, although its native habitats in Australia are considered threatened due to coastal development. The transfer of plants to new environments can also spread plant pathogens and pests.

Shirey and Lamberti warn of the dangers of unchecked species redistribution and urge the US Fish and Wildlife Service to better
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Contact: Patrick Shirey
pshirey@nd.edu
574-631-0580
University of Notre Dame
Source:Eurekalert

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