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Abstract Detail

Big Data and the Conservation of North America's Flora

Knapp, Wesley [1], Frances, Anne [2], Weakley, Alan [3], Naczi, Robert [4], Gann, George D. [5], Jackie, Poole [6], Baldwin, Bruce [7], John, Clark [8], Daniel, Gluesenkamp [9], Heidel, Bonnie [10], Kathryn, Kennedy [11], Patrick, McIntyre [12], James, Miller [13], Brent, Mishler [14], Gerry, Moore [15], Reed, Noss [16], Richard, Olmstead [17], Daniela, Roth [18], Jason, Singhurst [19], Anna, Strong [19].

Vascular Plant Extinction in North America north of Mexico; what have we lost and what can we learn?

Species extinction is a permanent event that we as a conservation community strive to prevent. As we progress through the Anthropocene the extinction rates of plants and animals are expected to increase, and some biodiversity hot-spots are projected to become centers of extinction. Though speculation is common about increased extinction rates in the future, we have yet to quantify the current extinction rates of plants and many animals. This study represents the first effort to quantify the extinction rate of the vascular flora of North America, north of Mexico. We compiled our data on potentially extinct species by querying plant conservation databases, searching the literature, and vetting the resulting list against a large group of botanical experts from across North America. Because taxonomic opinion can vary widely amongst experts, we developed an Index of Taxonomic Uncertainty (ITU). The ITU scale ranges from A to F, with an A rank indicating unanimous taxonomic recognition and an F rank indicating taxonomic recognition by a single author. The ITU allowed us to evaluate extinction rates under standardized taxonomic considerations. Our data suggest 81 plants are globally historic or extinct from our study area, since European settlement. The disparity between western and eastern North America extinction rates may be a result of survey effort before widespread settlement. The majority of extinct plants were single site endemics and occurred in areas not recognized as a biodiversity hot-spot. Given the paucity of plant surveys in many areas of North America, particularly prior to European settlement, the actual extinction rate of vascular plants is undoubtedly much higher than this study indicates. The number of plants that went extinct before being documented by science is impossible to quantify, but it is plausible that hundreds of single site endemics went extinct before they were described. The fact that many extinct plants occurred in habitats not recognized as biodiversity hotspots has significant implications for current conservation efforts. If limited conservation resources focus only on biodiversity hotspots, it is likely that the extinction of single site endemics will continue into the future. We recommend further research, particularly taxonomic and field, on single site endemics to ensure their protection into the future.

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1 - North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, 176 Riceville Rd., Asheville, NC, 28805
2 - NatureServe, 4600 North Fairfax Drive, 7th Floor, Arlington, VA, 22203, USA, 305-321-7073
3 - CB 3280, UNC Herbarium / NC Botanical Garden, UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599-3280, USA
4 - The New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY, 10458, USA
5 - The Institute for Regional Conservation, 100 E. Linton Blvd, Suite 302B, Delray Beach, Florida, 33483, USA
6 - Wildlife Diversity Program, Retired, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, TX
7 - University Of California Berkeley, JEPSON HERB & DEPT INTEGR BIOL, 1001 Valley Life Sciences Building, MC 2465, Berkeley, CA, 94720-2465, USA
8 - Center for Plant Conservation, Escondido, CA
9 - California Native Plant Society, Sacramento, CA
10 - Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
11 - U.S. Forest Service, Albuquerque, NM
12 - California Natural Diversity Database, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Sacramento, CA
13 - Missouri Botanical Gardens, St. Louis, MO
14 - Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
15 - National Plant Data Team, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Greensboro, NC
16 - Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
17 - University Of Washington, Department Of Biology, CAMPUS BOX 355325, SEATTLE, WA, 98195-5325, USA
18 - New Mexico EMNRD-Forestry Division, Santa Fe, NM
19 - Texas Parks and Wildlife, Austin, TX

areas of endemism
North America.

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: 8:45 AM
Number: SY5003
Abstract ID:474
Candidate for Awards:None

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