Abstract Detail

Bryophytes and Lichens on the Edges of Changing Ecosystems

Schuette, Scott [1], Townsend, John [2], Knapp, Wesley [3].

State of Bryophyte Conservation in North America North of Mexico.

Global biodiversity is a subject of great concern as our planet is undergoing unprecedented changes due to advancement of human civilization and anthropogenic-induced climate change. These changes continue to impact ecosystems and their components, leading to reductions in species richness and abundance, disruption of ecological functions and food webs, and inception of the next global extinction event. For example, there are 65 plant taxa that are presumed to have gone extinct in the United States and Canada since European colonization of the continent. A third of these are known only from the type specimens and four taxa considered extinct; were described new to science in the last 27 years from herbarium vouchers. One half of one percent of the entire vascular is considered extinct in the wild. This illustrates the importance of knowing our biodiversity before it’s gone, especially for plants that are often relegated in plant communities to general groups such as mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. NatureServe is the authoritative source for biodiversity data in North America through their work with natural heritage programs and other organizations. To gauge the status of bryophyte biodiversity and levels of conservation protections, we queried over 100 botanists from NatureServe network programs and the existing data from the United States and Canada. Over half the survey respondents had indicated some type of bryophyte inventory in their state or province, nearly 80% track their bryophyte diversity, but only 20% actually have regulatory protections for bryophyte taxa. All Canadian provinces have species checklists that have at least some taxa assigned conservation ranks, suggesting a good understanding of bryophyte diversity. Less is known about bryophyte diversity in the United States with over half of the states reporting fewer than 100 taxa and nearly 40% reporting fewer than 10 taxa, clearly underestimating the total bryophyte diversity for most of the country. Using current NatureServe data, we present global, national, and subnational rarity data for bryophytes in the United States and Canada and identify data gaps in bryophyte diversity data. Using the survey responses, we provide examples of how collaboration between heritage programs and academic programs can enhance bryophyte conservation. We provide an example that highlights how heritage botanists and bryologists worked together to discover three globally rare taxa in the deep gorges of southwestern Virginia. Bryophytes provide insight into biodiversity hotspots and unique or uncommon plant community assemblages and it’s important to document this diversity so that practitioners can make scientifically informed decisions about their conservation before they disappear without ever being found.

1 - Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, PA Natural Heritage Program, 800 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA, 15222, USA
2 - Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, Natural Heritage, 600 East Main Street, 24th Floor, Richmond, VA, USA
3 - NatureServe, Botany, Arlington, VA, 22202, United States

Natural Heritage.

Presentation Type: Colloquium Presentations
Number: C7005
Abstract ID:544
Candidate for Awards:None

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