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Triage for plants: NYBG scientists develop and test rapid species conservation assessment technique
Date:8/16/2012

To speed up the process of identifying threatened and endangered plant species, a team of New York Botanical Garden scientists has developed a streamlined method for evaluating the conservation status of large numbers of plant species, using information from plant research collections and Geographic Information Systems technology.

Faced with such threats as deforestation, climate change, and invasive species, a significant proportion of the world's plant species are commonly believed to be in serious decline and possibly headed toward extinction. For government officials, non-governmental organizations, and anyone working to preserve biodiversity, knowing which species are most at risk is a critical piece of information, but the conservation status of only a fraction of the world's plant species has been determined.

The rapid assessment method developed by Botanical Garden scientists uses the geographic range of a species as an indicator of its vulnerability. Sorting through thousands of species, the process identifies which ones are widespread in a regionand thus not in any immediate riskand which have restricted ranges, making them more susceptible to extinction when faced with environmental problems.

"The lack of a comprehensive list of threatened and endangered species is one of the greatest impediments to the effort to preserve plant biodiversity," said James S. Miller, Ph.D., the Garden's Dean and Vice President for Science and the lead author of the paper that outlines the method and the results when it was tested on Puerto Rico's native plant species. "Having a more efficient system for assessing threats means that we can quickly focus conservation efforts on priority areas and species that need the most attention."

Using the Garden's streamlined assessment process could make it possible for the conservation community to meet a key target of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), which calls for an assess
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Contact: Stevenson Swanson
sswanson@nybg.org
718-817-8512
The New York Botanical Garden
Source:Eurekalert

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