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Smithsonian Botanical Symposium 2013 — Presented by the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History Department of Botany in collaboration with the United States Botanic Garden with support from the Cuatrecasas Family Foundation:
"Avoiding Extinction: Contemporary Approaches to Conservation Science"
Conservation science seeks to provide a rational framework for the protection of species and their habitats. At the inception of the discipline, scientists recognized that environmental problems, including land use change and pollution effects, were significant challenges to sustaining biodiversity. Scientists now acknowledge that, while these problems remain, other issues such as invasive species, interspecific hybridization, and climate change impose additional threats to species survival. Furthermore, paleoecologists have used the fossil record to contextualize the current loss of biodiversity based on knowledge of past extinctions and paleoclimates, and now models of predicted future climates are helping to anticipate new challenges.
Forty years ago, the U.S. Endangered Species Act was signed into law. This landmark piece of legislation was designed to protect plant and animal species from extinction based on our knowledge of conservation science at the time. The Act has led to many success stories, primarily due to the growing sophistication of the conservation science it spurred, but will not be sufficient on its own to address new conservation goals. With new landmark conservation legislation unlikely in the near future, how will scientists continue to move forward in their quest to preserve biodiversity?
The 11th Smithsonian Botanical Symposium, hosted by the Department of Botany and the United States Botanic Garden, will highlight past efforts and new threats to conservation goals, as well as new approaches underway that promise to safeguard biodiversity both here in the U.S. and around the world. The invited speakers will cover a wide range of endangered organisms, with a special focus on plants, to illustrate the challenges of modern-day conservation science in a rapidly changing world.
Program and Schedule
Scott P. Carroll (University of California-Davis)
Andrea T. Kramer (Chicago Botanic Garden)
Stuart Pimm (Duke University)
Chris D. Thomas (University of York)
Stephen Weller (University of California-Irvine)
Dennis Whigham (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center)
Scott Wing (National Museum of Natural History)
Friday, April 19, Evening Events
The United States Botanic Garden
6:00 p.m. Opening Reception and Poster Session, United States Botanic Garden, Washington, DC.
Saturday, April 20
NMNH Baird Auditorium
9:00 a.m. Registration and Coffee, Evans Gallery (enter through Constitution Avenue Lobby)
9:30 a.m. Opening Remarks, Warren L. Wagner, Chair of Botany, Smithsonian Institution. Presentation of the José Cuatrecasas Medal for Excellence in Tropical Botany, Laurence J. Dorr, Department of Botany, Smithsonian Institution.
Symposium Convener: Gary Krupnick, Department of Botany, Smithsonian Institution
10:00 a.m. Scott Wing, Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, “What does past global warming tell us about future plant conservation?"
10:45 a.m. Coffee Break, Upper Level of the Museum Rotunda
11:15 a.m. Stephen Weller, University of California-Irvine, "Conservation on oceanic islands: interactions between introduced ungulates and invasive plants”
12:00 p.m. Scott P. Carroll, University of California-Davis, "Conciliation biology: the eco-evolutionary management of permanently invaded biotic systems”
12:45 p.m. Boxed Lunch, Upper Level of the Museum Rotunda
NMNH Baird Auditorium
2:30 p.m. Andrea T. Kramer, Botanic Gardens Conservation International U.S., “Getting plant conservation right: successes, challenges, and opportunities for the future”
3:15 p.m. Dennis Whigham, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, “North American Orchid Conservation Center - a continental scale public-private effort to establish a model to assure the survival of native orchids”
4:00 p.m. Coffee Break, Upper Level of the Museum Rotunda
4:30 p.m. Stuart Pimm, Duke University, “Most threatened plants are in fragmented habitats, so what can we do to reconnect them?”
5:15 p.m. Chris D. Thomas, University of York, “The end of trying to re-create the past”
NMNH Rotunda and Exhibits
6:15 p.m. Reception
7:15 p.m. Symposium Dinner, Museum Rotunda
Conciliation Biology: The Eco-evolutionary Management of Permanently Invaded Biotic Systems
Scott P. Carroll, University of California at Davis, U.S.A.
Human influence on the biosphere has a profound and underappreciated evolutionary dimension. While many harmful species adapt to human actions in damaging ways, many beneficial species are not adapting fast enough. Both outcomes threaten human welfare and are vitally important to the practice of environmental stewardship, sustainable agriculture and responsible medicine. The novel biotic systems created by introduced exotic species are a key case in point. Eradication efforts are routinely defeated by the rapid evolution of resistance to our control measures, for example, and 'invaders' also cause evolutionary and ecological changes that prove irreversible or indeed positive. Contexts that appear to call for control or eradication may thus instead require managed coexistence. Conciliatory approaches to non-native species address many practical needs, including cultivating replacement services and novel functions, slowing resistance evolution and managing nativeÂâ€“nonnative coevolution. Rather than signaling defeat, conciliation biology utilizes the predictive power of evolutionary theory to suggest new ways for managing ecosystems of mixed biogeographic heritage.
Scott Carroll is a field ecologist and Director of the Institute for Contemporary Evolution in Davis, California, which builds awareness of ongoing evolution and promotes evolutionary applications in conservation biology, medicine and agriculture. He is a native Minnesotan who later colonized the Department of Entomology at the University of California at Davis. He began his tropical research career with a Smithsonian Fellowship at its Barro Colorado Island field station in Panama in 1986. Twice a Fulbright Fellow to Australia, his studies of insects feeding on exotic plants have shown how new ecosystem services can rapidly evolve. He continues to study and teach tropical evolutionary ecology worldwide.
Getting Plant Conservation Right: Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities for the Future
Andrea Kramer, Botanic Gardens Conservation International, U.S.A.
Are we getting plant conservation right? While there is no formula for effective plant conservation, there are key ingredients that include basic information needs, including accurate and accessible species distribution and rarity data, as well as capacity for research, management, education and training to mitigate threats facing rare species. The formula also includes policy and funding to support information and capacity needs. Policymakers and the general public must understand and support the importance of plants and the need for their conservation. Finally, plant conservation efforts must be coordinated to ensure resources and expertise are strategically, efficiently and effectively. Arguably, we are not getting plant conservation ‘right’, as plants are becoming increasingly rare in the United States and around the world. However, there are some areas where we are doing better than others. Results of numerous nationwide assessments have helped identify strengths as well as opportunities to improve plant conservation in the United States and globally. This presentation will describe the most interesting and relevant results of the Botanical Capacity Assessment Project and the North American Collections Assessment, and will discuss successes and opportunities for improvement in research and conservation application as well as education and outreach.
Andrea Kramer is Executive Director of Botanic Gardens Conservation International U.S. (BGCI US). In this role she works on plant conservation, research, and outreach programs and is charged with connecting botanic gardens and partners in the United States with BGCI’s global plant conservation network and resources. Recent projects include the North American Collections Assessment and Botanical Capacity Assessment. She currently chairs the American Public Garden Association’s plant conservation professional section. Kramer is also a Conservation Scientist at Chicago Botanic Garden, where she does ecological genetics research with applications to native plant materials development and ecological restoration on public lands in the western United States. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2009 on the ecological genetics of Penstemon species in the Great Basin.
Most Threatened Plants are in Fragmented Habitats, So What Can We do to Reconnect Them?
Stuart Pimm, Duke University, U.S.A.
To set priorities for plant conservation we must first ask where the greatest number of known small-ranged species live and then where the estimated 15-20% of species still missing from the taxonomic catalogue live. Using the taxonomically revised data available from Kew, I reassess the Myers’ hotspots to quantify formally which areas contain the most endemic species. The results are close, but not identical. I then model the rates of species’ descriptions to estimate how incomplete are these areas’ species lists. Correcting for missing species, these revised hotspots contain an even larger fraction of threatened species than previously anticipated. Such efforts provide a strategic overview of conservation priorities. Practical conservation requires downscaling to tactical solutions. I present solutions to two areas â€” the coastal forests of southeastern Brazil and the Western Andes of Colombia that have exceptional numbers of small-ranged species. For both, the habitats are massively fragmented and what protected areas exist are often isolated. Protected areas “work”, in that they retain forest cover and prevent anthropogenic fires that clear forests. Creating reforested connections between protected fragments to create large protected areas is likely the most cost-effective solution for protecting all species. I will discuss two projects from SavingSpecies, www.savingspecies.org that effect such restoration of habitat connectivity.
Stuart Pimm is the Doris Duke Chair of Conservation Ecology at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. He studies present day extinctions and what can be done to prevent them. Pimm received his B.S. degree from Oxford University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from New Mexico State University in 1974. Pimm wrote the acclaimed assessment of the human impact to the planet: The World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth in 2001. His commitment to the interface between science and policy has led to his testimony to both House and Senate Committees on the re-authorization of the Endangered Species Act. Pimm directs SavingSpecies, a 501c3 non-profit that uses funds for carbon emissions offsets to fund local conservation groups to restore degraded lands in areas of exceptional tropical biodiversity. His international honors include the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2010), the Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006), the Society for Conservation Biology’s Edward T. LaRoe III Memorial Award (2006), and the William Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement in 2007 from Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.
The End of Trying to Re-create the Past
Chris D. Thomas, University of York, U.K.
Environmental changes are so rapid and extensive that it is no longer practical to return most ecosystems to some imagined pre-human past, or even to stop the clock at the present. Accepting that change is inevitable requires a major shift in philosophy within the conservation movement since we have been brought up on the idea that environmental change is, almost by definition, bad. This perspective is ingrained. Once the conceptual switch is made, however, substantial shifts in the relative frequencies of different practical conservation actions become feasible. And they are needed. I will illustrate some of these issues by considering the ecological impacts of climate change and strategies to translocate species outside of their historical geographic ranges to locations where the climate will be suitable for them in future.
Chris Thomas is an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, interested in the dynamics of biological change. He has worked on the movement of species in response to climate change, the principles underlying the survival and extinction of species in fragmented landscapes (metapopulation dynamics), and evolutionary changes in insects in response to climate and habitat change His research has concentrated on insects and insect-plant interactions, particularly focusing on butterflies, but he is interested in a wide range of other taxonomic groups, especially birds and plants. In addition to his scientific publications, Thomas' work has been widely quoted in the media and has influenced the development of policy in the areas of climate change and habitat fragmentation. Thomas has received a number of awards for his academic research and its applications, and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2012. Thomas has been based at the University of York in England, since 2004.
Conservation on Oceanic Islands: Interactions between Introduced Ungulates and Invasive Plants
Stephen Weller, University of California at Irvine, U.S.A.
Remote island ecosystems may be especially susceptible to invasion because island species have evolved in isolation and have little resistance to competitors, herbivores, and pathogens introduced from continental areas. Synergistic interactions between introduced ungulates and invasive plants may have profound effects in island ecosystems, leading to modifications of ecosystems that cannot easily be reversed. Removal of introduced ungulates may result in unexpected negative consequences, such as the increase in frequency of alien plant species that might have been suppressed by herbivory. Attempts at restoration may lead to alternative, undesirable states that are highly resilient to further change. These possibilities were investigated in lowland dry and mesic forests in Hawaii, which are among the most diverse communities in the archipelago, but now occur in only a small fraction of their former range. Low elevation dry and mesic forests are also well known for their very high numbers of endangered species. Our goal was to determine how ungulate removal from these forests influences the balance of native and alien plant species. Removal of ungulates had positive effects in both community types, including reduced mortality and greater recruitment of native species, but invasive plant species capable of altering habitats and limiting regeneration of native plant species were also favored. Active management of these remnant communities, including reintroduction of key native species, will be essential for conservation of biodiversity in low elevation communities in Hawaii.
Stephen G. Weller received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently a professor at the University of California at Irvine. His research is focused on the evolution of plant reproductive systems, including the evolution of heterostyly and the transition from hermaphroditism to dioecy. In collaboration with Ann K. Sakai, Warren L. Wagner, and others, he has investigated the systematics and evolution of reproductive systems in Schiedea (Caryophyllaceae), the fifth largest adaptive radiation of plants in the Hawaiian Islands. The decline of populations of Schiedea in recent years has led to an interest in the conservation of this genus, and a general concern for the conservation of Hawaiian plant communities. Long term investigations of factors influencing conservation of dry and mesic forests in Hawaii have helped to elucidate how interactions between introduced ungulates and invasive plant species affect these plant communities.
North American Orchid Conservation Center - A Continental Scale Public-Private Effort to Establish a Model to Assure the Survival of Native Orchids
Dennis Whigham, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, U.S.A.
Many orchid species are rare and threatened with extinction and international efforts (e.g. CITES) have focused on the illegal trade of orchids and the conservation of threatened species. No organization in North America focuses on the conservation and restoration of native orchids and no single entity is devoted to educating the public about the evolutionary and ecological importance of orchids. In addition, organizations mandated to identify and protect threatened and endangered orchids rely almost completely on habitat conservation for management. While habitat management is important, ecological attributes of orchids (e.g., obligatory relationships between orchids and fungi) dictate that it alone will not result in successful conservation or restoration. Units within the Smithsonian, with funding from the SI Consortia, joined the U.S. Botanic Garden to launch the North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC). Research, education and outreach will be key components of NAOCC and all elements will have a national focus that will include botanic gardens to serve as hubs for the conservation of orchid biodiversity. NOACC will include continental scale collections of seeds and orchid mycorrhizal fungi for use in research, education, conservation and restoration. This presentation will focus on the ecology of orchids and their fungal partners; with emphasis on the need for a large-scale and multidisciplinary effort if orchid conservation is to be successful. The Smithsonian is in a unique position to lead the NAOCC effort; which will further SI goals of increasing and diffusing knowledge to broader audiences in support of efforts to support biodiveristy conservation.
The ecology of plants has been Dennis Whigham’s primary interest and his research has resulted in journeys through forests, fields and wetlands around the world. Explorations have lead to studies of woodland herbs - including orchids, vines, wetland species, invasive species and studies of forests in the tropics, temperate and boreal zones. In recent years, studies of interactions between orchids and fungi have lead in new and exciting directions. Whigham’s current focus is on wetlands, including the role of wetlands associated with juvenile salmon habitat in Alaska; the rarest terrestrial orchid in eastern North America; and invasive species. His current passion is to establish the North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC), a SI Consortia initiative. NAOCC will be based on continentally focused public-private collaborations that will eventually result in the conservation of the genetic diversity of native orchids, initially in the U.S. and Canada. Whigham obtained an undergraduate degree from Wabash College and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina. He joined the Smithsonian in 1977. Whigham and his collaborators have published more than 225 articles in journals and books and he has co-edited 10 books, including one on terrestrial orchids and a 2009 volume on Tidal Freshwater Wetlands.
What Does Past Global Warming Tell Us About Future Plant Conservation?
Scott Wing, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, U.S.A.
One way we can better understand the effects of anthropogenic climate change on plants is to examine the fossil record of their response to past climate changes. The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is a particularly useful episode of global warming because it was analogous to business as usual scenarios for the future both in terms of the amount of carbon released (>4,000 Pg), and the amount of warming experienced (4-8 °C). In this talk I will summarize basic information about the PETM, then describe what fossil leaves and pollen reveal about floristic change during the PETM. The best record of plant response to the PETM comes from the northern Rocky Mountains. There, floristic composition changed radically during the event because local or regional populations of mesophytic plants, especially conifers, were extirpated. Mesophytic plants were replaced in this area by invading thermophilic and dry-tolerant species, many in the Fabaceae. This floristic change largely reversed itself as the PETM ended, though some immigrant species persisted and some Paleocene species never returned. Despite geologically rapid extirpation, colonization, and recolonization, there was little plant extinction during the PETM, suggesting the rate of climate change did not exceed the capacity of plants to disperse. Extrapolating the response of plants from the PETM to future anthropogenic climate change likely underestimates risk, however, because rates of climate change during the PETM were probably an order of magnitude slower than current rates of change, and because the abundant, widespread species common as fossils are likely resistant to extinction.
Scott Wing was born in New Orleans and raised there and in Durham, North Carolina. His childhood interest in fossils was reignited by fieldwork while in college at Yale, where he received his B.S. in Biology in 1976. He completed his Ph.D. in Biology at Yale in 1981, then went to the U. S. Geological Survey for one year as a postdoctoral fellow and one as a staff geologist. He became a curator and research scientist at the Smithsonian in 1984. Wing’s research is on fossil plants and past climates, focusing on how terrestrial ecosystems respond to past climate change. He has conducted fieldwork in the Rocky Mountains for >30 years to reveal the effects of a sudden global warming event that occurred 56 million years ago. He also studies the fossil record of tropical rainforests. Wing has published >70 scientific papers, edited five books, and holds adjunct or honorary positions at four universities. He is a Fellow of the Paleontological Society, the Geological Society of America, and was a Bass Fellow at the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies. Wing is on the core development team for the 30,000 sq. ft. renovation of the Smithsonian’s history of life halls.
The National Museum of Natural History is located at the intersection of 10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW in Washington, D.C. 20560.
The United States Botanic Garden is located at 100 Maryland Ave. SW in Washington, D.C. 20001.
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Parking at the museum is available on a limited basis for registered participants on April 20, 2013. The parking entrance is on Constitution Ave. between 10th and 12th Streets (the west parking lot). The guard in the parking lot booth will have a list of all registered participants to verify that you are eligible to park for the day.
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