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Abstract Detail

Big Data and the Conservation of North America's Flora

Gann, George D. [1].

Scaling down and re-scaling up, using a comprehensive regional conservation approach to enhance national and international plant conservation strategies – a case study from South Florida.

Florida is a large, floristically diverse state with many rare plant taxa of pressing conservation concern. While NatureServe and The Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) have collected and curated data on rare plants in Florida since the early 1980s, the biological diversity and geographic complexity of plant distributions present a challenge for conserving rare plants. South Florida, in particular, has undergone rapid transformation. With barely 25,000 residents in 1900 the area now contains about 8 million people spread unevenly over an area of about 4 million hectares. The greater Everglades ecosystem, home to myriad tropical and subtropical species, was wracked by massive engineering works and expansion of the agriculture frontier. Coastal and upland ecosystems, containing many endemic species, were radically transformed to accommodate growing human populations. In the mid-1990s, The Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC) initiated the Floristic Inventory of South Florida to complete a comprehensive conservation assessment of the region’s entire flora – a total of more than 1,400 native species, of which nearly 300 are found nowhere else in North America. This ambitious and collaborative program began with cataloging all existing information on plant distributions and rarity, intensive field surveys in dozens of protected areas, and collecting and databasing herbarium specimens. IRC then assessed the conservation status of the South Florida flora using a modified Heritage Program ranking system (now NatureServe). Results of this work are published online as the Floristic Inventory of South Florida (Gann et al. 2001-2017) and as the book Rare Plants of South Florida: Their History, Conservation and Restoration (Gann et al. 2002). These major findings directed IRC’s collaborative activities with multiple agencies at the local, regional and national level including: 1) setting up research and monitoring programs for rare plants in fragmented ecosystems; 2) actively restoring degraded habitat for numerous rare plants and several species listed by the U.S. Endangered Species Act; and, 3) conducting baseline studies to evaluate the impact of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan on rare plants in Everglades National Park. While Big Data from FNAI and NatureServe have been critical to the project, especially at early stages, the comprehensive nature of IRC’s work revealed gaps in knowledge at larger scales, producing data on new discoveries, changing taxonomic concepts, historical and extirpated taxa, and nationally imperiled species otherwise ignored. This information is then shared with collaborators, taking advantage of differences in scale to maximize effectiveness.

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Related Links:

1 - The Institute for Regional Conservation, 100 E. Linton Blvd, Suite 302B, Delray Beach, Florida, 33483, USA

regional conservation
South Florida

Presentation Type: Symposium Presentation
Session: SY5, Big Data and the Conservation of North America's Flora
Location: Sundance 5/Omni Hotel
Date: Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
Time: 10:45 AM
Number: SY5007
Abstract ID:437
Candidate for Awards:None

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