Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance
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Research Projects: Safeguarding Torreya taxifolia . Recovery of Elliottia racemosa . Restoration of Pitcherplant Bogs . Historic Species Search Project . Recovery of Echinacea laevigata . Botanical Guardians . Gentianopsis crinita

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GPCA News

Shortcut to:
New Team Tools Page
Letter from Dr. Jim Affolter, Chair of GPCA
Update on the Recovery of Torreya taxifolia
Restoration of Pitcherplant Bogs
Recovery of Elliottia racemosa
Population Genetic Analysis of Elliottia racemosa, a Rare Georgia Shrub
The Lost Georgia Mountain Species
The GEPSN Project Travels via Satellite!
And Now, a Few Words from Our GEPSN Intern, Jay Averett
GPCA Charter Member Profile: The Georgia Natural Heritage Program
Potential Research Projects
Its a Nourse of Course! Hugh and Carol Nourse, Volunteers Extraordinaire
GPCA Funding
GPCA Wish List

Jenny Cruse
GPCA graduate student Jennifer Cruse, Ph.D. candidate in Botany at UGA, compiles profile information summarizing mountain historic species. Read about this project here.
NEW TEAM TOOLS PAGE

Visit our new Team Tools page for access to the GPCA Discussion Board, an online calendar (coming soon), and databases and contact information about Georgia's rare plants. Some features are limited to participating GPCA members and other research and education professionals in the field of plant conservation and required registration. E-mail Jennifer Ceska to to become a registered user. This portion of GPCA's website and tools are made possible by The Norcross Foundation and Bloom.

LETTER FROM DR. JIM AFFOLTER, CHAIR OF GPCA
Director of Research, State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Associate Professor of Horticulture, UGA

The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance is now in its fourth year and this issue of GPCA News reflects the health and steady growth of our organization. The spirit of cooperation that led to the initial formation of the Alliance continues to flourish and our determination to focus on a few well-defined projects has produced significant results. The number of people involved in GPCA projects has also grown as technical specialists, students, and volunteers have made major contributions on several fronts.

Each of our four original projects are discussed in these pages including: recovery of Torreya taxifolia, one of the most critically endangered trees in the United States; restoration of pitcherplant bogs, our most ambitious effort and one that reaches from the Coastal Plain to the north Georgia mountains; conservation of Elliottia racemosa, a rare Georgia shrub with considerable horticultural potential; and publication of a reference and identification manual to mountain species that have not been observed in the wild in Georgia for at least 20 years but which await rediscovery. A fifth project has also been added during the past year, recovery of the federally endangered species Echinacea laevigata. The Georgia Natural Heritage Program has recently designated additional funds to accelerate smooth purple coneflower recovery efforts.

These five research and management projects are complemented by GPCA's educational centerpiece, the Georgia Endangered Plant Stewardship Network (GEPSN). This program, which targets students in grades 3-12 through intensive teacher training and follow-up support, now reaches classrooms via satellite and the Internet. Dozens of pitcherplant bogs and endangered species gardens have been established in school yards across the state, and approximately 150 teachers have participated in training workshops designed and led by GPCA members.

One of the most satisfying developments during the past year has been the involvement of more students, not only through GEPSN program but also at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Through internships and part-time employment, students have made significant contributions to the mountain bog project, Elliottia conservation, development of the Historic Species manual, and the GEPSN program. Several University of Georgia graduate students are selecting thesis topics that will enable them to collaborate with GPCA members and to become familiar with the variety of institutions and professional disciplines that contribute to plant conservation efforts in the state.

External support for the Alliance has been encouraging and it continues to increase. We recently received a second grant from the Turner Foundation. The first provided $20,000 for a one year period; the most recent provides $60,000 over two years. In the process of preparing proposals for these and other grants, we made an effort to document the in-kind contributions we receive from each of the GPCA member institutions. When one considers the amount of staff time, overhead costs, travel, and miscellaneous expenses involved in propagating and maintaining plant collections, the resources we collectively devote to conserving Georgia's rare plants is impressive.

Finally, it is satisfying to observe two changes that have taken place as a result of GPCA's formation. Many rare plants are no longer confined to their fragile and dwindling natural habitats. They are now appearing in classrooms, laboratories, greenhouses, garden collections, and even on Web sites. One of the first steps in protecting endangered species is becoming more familiar with them and this process is taking place both in the scientific and public arenas. Secondly, it is encouraging to see the formal and informal networks that connect conservation professionals, volunteers, teachers, and students growing stronger every day, bringing new energy to plant conservation efforts in Georgia. GPCA was formed on the principle that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, and participants in the Alliance continue to draw energy and inspiration from one another. GPCA has become an important part of the national effort to conserve our endangered flora. With your support and participation we will continue to grow. Save the Plants!

UPDATE ON THE RECOVERY OF TORREYA TAXIFOLIA
Madeleine Groves, Conservation Programme Coordinator, Atlanta Botanical Garden

Long-term institutional cooperation and commitment by GPCA members and collaborators towards the recovery of Torreya taxifolia has been continually demonstrated since this project was reported in GPCA's first newsletter (No. 1, Jan. 1998). In November 1989, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, through the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), initiated ex situ conservation efforts as recommended in the recovery plan written for this species when it was listed as "endangered" under the US Endangered Species Act in 1984. Over 2,000 cuttings from 166 trees at 14 individual sites were collected in order to secure and propagate genetic material away from the infected populations (Nicholson et al., 1998).

In 1990, The Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) entered into a corporate agreement with the CPC to receive a full set of these original cuttings. Plants from many of these cuttings are now over 5 feet in height. Despite reproductive individuals not being found in the wild as a result of the blight, ABG staff harvested the first crop of seed from these cuttings in Fall of 1998. Using a simple but effective method, the seeds were cleaned and planted at ABG in rodent-secure seed beds.

In order to reduce the risk, additional material (approximately 2,000 cuttings, representing 150 genotypes) was taken from ABG's original cuttings and forwarded to Rob Nicholson at The Botanic Garden at Smith College in Northampton, MA to be rooted. Rob's long-term commitment to conserving this species should be noted as he has been involved in this project since initial conservation efforts were made by the Arnold Arboretum. Approximately, 1,600 rooted cuttings were returned to ABG in December, 1998 where they were potted-up and labeled with their original Arnold Arboretum location numbers. ABG is now coordinating the distribution of these cuttings to other GPCA members including the State Botanical Garden, UGA Experimental Station (Blairsville, Georgia), Georgia Southern University, Callaway Gardens, and Smithgall Woods. The GPCA continues to rank this species as one of their top five priority projects for this state.

As GPCA members and collaborators continue to work closely on developing propagation and horticultural techniques for this species, securing ex situ conservation populations north of the infected populations will be one of GPCA's main objectives as we enter the 21st century.

RESTORATION OF PITCHERPLANT BOGS
Madeleine Groves, Conservation Programme Coordinator, Atlanta Botanical Garden

1997-1999 has been a busy time for the GPCA team in terms of monitoring and restoring the mountain and Coastal Plain pitcherplant bogs targeted by the Alliance as a priority project. Field trips dominated the year with work parties in the mountains concentrating on the maintenance of existing bogs and the creation of two new safeguarding sites (Sosbee and Tallulah) on US Forest Service land. Because there are only two intact mountain bogs left in Georgia and because botanical garden collections are not considered a long-term solution, we are safeguarding propagated populations of these species in wild sites where they can establish and begin to reproduce on their own (a program more frequently used by animal conservationists). This will help protect the plant community against extinction in case we lose the last two natural sites due to a catastrophic event or a breakdown of cooperation with the landowners. These safeguarding sites will provide habitat for rare mountain species (e.g., Kalmia caroliniana, Helonias bullata) and the newly described, rare variety of the purple pitcherplant, Sarracenia purpurea var. venosa subp. montana. The first safeguarding site (now known as Sosbee Bog) was planted in December 1998, and the second site (Tallulah Upland Bog) was planted in April of 1999.

Dr. Mary Jo Godt and Dr. Jim Hamrick of UGA Botany and Genetics departments are publishing a study on the genetic variation among the varieties of Sarracenia purpurea ("Genetic divergence among intraspecific taxa of Sarracenia purpurea," Systematic Botany, in press.) Their work documents the genetic diversity found in the varieties of Sarracenia purpurea, and illustrates the importance of elevating their conservation status.

GPCA has continued to work on the restoration of the two original mountain pitcherplant bogs surviving in Georgia. Hand-pruning invading shrubs and trees by a GPCA/Forest Service team has more than doubled the amount of available bog habitat at one site. Regular monitoring indicates increasing numbers of purple pitcherplant. Two individuals flowered but did not produce fruit. We are closely monitoring flower development.

Silt fences were established to help reduce soil erosion and silt washing over the bogs, and suitable habitat was opened up further by removing shrubs encroaching on the bog. These sites will be maintained using an innovative "flame-thrower"' developed for ABG by a pitcherplant enthusiast from Mississippi, Mr. Tarnok. The flame-thrower is a simple, clean and effective way of controlling resprouts of woody species that have been removed to allow higher light levels into a bog. The bog restoration techniques developed by GPCA members, in particular the Atlanta Botanical Garden, have now been adopted for pitcherplant bog restoration in Alabama, and The Carolinas.

Establishing a prescribed fire and maintenance regime for each of the eight Coastal Plain pitcherplant bogs GPCA has been a priority. Only three sites were burned by DNR, TNC, and private landowners in 1998 due to restrictions on prescribed fires because of the drought last summer. More burns are planned for winter and summer 1999 but fire restrictions due to drought are hindering these plans as well. The GPCA team has continued photo-monitoring and data collection to assess any changes in biodiversity and the reduction in percent of woody species cover as a result of prescribed fire.

One of GPCA's goals for 1999 is to establish educational pitcherplant bog displays at a number of GEPSN regional centers (see GEPSN article below) throughout the state to help raise the profile of these endangered plant communities and encourage responsible stewardship of our natural heritage.

RECOVERY OF ELLIOTTIA RACEMOSA
Malcolm Hodges, Stewardship Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy of Georgia, GPCA Elliottia Committee Chair

Experiments on rare Georgia plume (Elliottia racemosa), a state endemic shrub, have been conducted of late on two fronts: seed germination and container cultivation. Seed germination trials continue at the State Botanical Garden in Athens, using different combinations of cold stratification, gibberellic acid treatments (three concentrations), and smoke treatments. For one set of seeds from the Big Hammock (Tattnall Co.) population, no statistically significant differences were noted between different amounts of cold or growth stimulator; two different smoke treatments have not produced significant differences, although they appear to boost germination slightly. Trials on seeds from other populations were also conducted, although these data have not yet been analyzed.

John Ruter, UGA professor at the Coastal Plain Experimental Station in Tifton, has conducted trials on different aspects of container cultivation for possible use by the nursery trade. So far, no significant differences have been noted in response to different levels of light, container designs, fertilizer formulations, or potting substrates, but trials will continue using a different Elliottia clone during the coming year.

A genetic survey of Elliottia racemosa, completed in 1998 by Dr. Mary Jo Godt and Dr. Jim Hamrick of UGA for the GPCA, has been published in Molecular Ecology (1999) 8: 75-82 (see abstract below).

Georgia Southern Botanical Garden in Statesboro, Georgia will be hosting an International Symposium featuring Elliottia in June, 2000. Contact Sue Sill, Director of GSBG at sue_sill@gasou.edu or 912-871-1149.

At a planning meeting on 16 February, 1999, the GPCA Elliottia Committee decided on its course of action for 1999 and beyond, including the following goals and objectives:

  • Promote protection or conservation of important unprotected populations of Elliottia racemosa (Erwin and Columbia Co. populations).
  • Coordinate management of publicly and privately protected populations such as those at DNR's Big Hammock Natural Area, Fort Stewart, and TNC's Charles Harrold and R.G. Daniell preserves.
  • Set up reference populations at botanical gardens of plants grown from seeds from the populations with the greatest genetic diversity. Dr. Sue Sill, Director of Georgia Southern Botanical Garden, is compiling a database of Elliottia racemosa in cultivation.
  • Consistently monitor important populations of the species, both protected and unprotected. Monitoring trips are scheduled for June and July, 1999. Seed collecting trips planned for September, 1999.
  • Conduct experiments on seed propagation and cultivation. Repeat the smoke treatment seed germination study using seeds from R. G. Daniell Preserve.
  • Promote research on environmental processes affecting Elliottia in places where it grows, such as fire and hydrology.
  • Set up an experimental outplanting of propagated Elliottia in fall of 1999, using plants propagated from seed collected from the outplanting site.

POPULATION GENETIC ANALYSIS OF ELLIOTTIA RACEMOSA (ERICACEAE), A RARE GEORGIA SHRUB
Abstract of an article by M. J. W. Godt and J. L. Hamrick, Molecular Ecology (1999) 8: 75-82.

Genetic and genotypic diversity found within populations of threatened plant species can have important implications for their conservation and management. In this study we describe genetic and genotypic diversity found within 10 populations of the endemic shrub Elliottia racemosa (Ericaceae), the Georgia plume. E. racemosa is a threatened species known from fewer than 50 locations, all within the state of Georgia, USA. Seedset is limited to nonexistent in some E. racemosa populations and sexual recruitment has not been documented. However, the species is known to spread vegetatively via root-sprouts. Twenty-one allozyme loci were resolved for E. racemosa, nine of which were polymorphic. Compared with other woody taxa, E. racemosa has low genetic (i.e. allelic) diversity within populations (Hep = 0.063) and at the species level (Hes = 0.091). Most of the genetic variation (82%) was found within populations, and genetic identities between populations were high (mean I = 0.96). However, genotypic diversity (i.e. the number of multilocus genotypes) differed markedly among populations. Two of the 10 populations consisted almost entirely of single multilocus genotypes, whereas more than 20 multilocus gentoypes (in samples of 48 stems) were detected at three sites. Sites in which few multilocus genotypes were detected have low seedset, suggesting that the lack of clonal diversity limits reproduction in some populations of this reportedly self-incompatible species.

THE LOST GEORGIA MOUNTAIN SPECIES
Tom Patrick, Botanist, Georgia Natural Heritage Program

A GPCA team, led by the Georgia Natural Heritage Program, is creating a series of manuals to promote the search for Georgia's historic species. These are plants that have been ranked "SH" by the Georgia Natural Heritage Program, indicating that they have not been observed in the wild for at least 20 years. A systematic search for these species is important for prioritizing conservation work in the state. The region commonly referred to as the North Georgia Mountains includes portions of the Cumberland Plateau, Ridge and Valley, and Blue Ridge Physiographic Provinces. There are 30 plant species within this region in need of rediscovery. With few exceptions, they represent southernmost range limits for northern species. Most of the taxa are common elsewhere, but not in Georgia. Many of the habitats where these species have been observed in the past are on public lands managed by the US Forest Service. They include high elevation sites (above 3800 ft.) such as boulderfields, northern hardwoods, beech gaps, and rock ledges, which contribute significantly to plant diversity in Georgia. GPCA is producing a manual, now titled Georgia's Lost Species, to promote the search and recovery of these lost species.

GPCA hired a graduate student (Jennifer Cruse, Ph.D. candidate in Botany at the University of Georgia) to compile profile information summarizing each mountain historic species including: species description, habitat description, special identification features, phenology, lists and maps of historic localities, and a line drawing. Jennifer Cruse gathered this information working with botanists at the Georgia Natural Heritage Program. A draft of the manual was presented to GPCA during our winter meeting, January 16, 1999. The species information profiles and maps are complete. Line drawings for each species are being scanned into the computer and the final format touches and edits are being made now. The manual will include sample report forms and descriptions of methods for documenting species occurrences. It will be the first of its kind for the state of Georgia and will serve as a model for future historic species manuals to be prepared for other physiographic regions of our state. The proposed publication date is Fall, 1999.

GEORGIA ENDANGERED PLANT STEWARDSHIP NETWORK UPDATE: THE GEPSN PROJECT TRAVELS VIA SATELLITE!
Anne Shenk, Director of Education, State Botanical Garden of Georgia

Wow! I wonder ...

  • how long can an insect stay alive inside a pitcherplant?
  • why there are holes in the sides of some pitcherplants?
  • do more insects crawl into the pitchers at different times of the day?

These are questions young scientists (students) pose as they observe pitcherplants on their school sites. These "I wonder" questions quickly become fascinating science experiments as students formulate hypotheses such as "I think that":

  • an insect can stay alive for three days in a pitcherplant.
  • some insects lay eggs in the pitchers, and the larvae chew their way out.
  • more insects visit the pitcherplants in early morning than at any other time of day.

Thanks to grants from the Eisenhower Plan for the Improvement of Math and Science Education and the Georgia Department of Administrative Services, 66 additional teachers are now using inquiry based learning about Georgia's native and endangered plants. For six consecutive Tuesdays in winter 1999, Jennifer Ceska, Conservation Coordinator, State Botanical Garden (SBG) and I broadcast a 20 hour program titled The Green Plant Blues. Using Georgia's statewide distance learning system, GSAMS, teachers in Valdosta, Savannah, Gainesville, and Athens were trained to propagate and teach about endangered plants. Site facilitators included David Hedgepeth, Valdosta State University; Venetia Butler, Oatland Island Education Center, Savannah; and Johnna Tuttle, Gainesville College.

Teachers enrolled in this workshop become a part of the Georgia Endangered Plant Stewardship Network (GEPSN). In 1996, this network was started as an initiative of the Education Committee of GPCA. Students working with GEPSN endeavor to reverse trends that threaten the environment by raising awareness of Georgia's rare flora and habitats. Students in grades 3-12 become stewards for the environment by propagating rare plants from seeds and establishing these plants on their school sites or returning them to the environment. Students collect data including germination, bloom time, pollinators, and seed counts and report their findings to GEPSN Headquarters in Athens.

This most recent workshop was taught via satellite. Distance learning is a delivery system that allows instructors to broadcast and interact with students in several remote locations. For example, from our host site at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education, UGA, Athens, teachers from Gainesville were able to receive instruction and share their thoughts with colleagues in Valdosta. Many school systems in Georgia now have distance learning classrooms.

Prior to beginning the workshop, Green Plant Blues endangered plant kits were delivered to each site. Kits were completed by the GPCA Education Committee in January 1999 with Eisenhower funds. The kits contain a variety of resources for teaching about and propagating Georgia's endangered plants. Each week, facilitators at distance learning sites pulled appropriate items so educators could have a fun, hands-on session and not just watch two talking heads (Jennifer and Anne) from Athens!

For example, in one workshop activity teachers tested the organic content of different soils that might be found on a school site by adding hydrogen peroxide to the soil samples. Carbon from the organic material combines with oxygen from the hydrogen peroxide and produces bubbles of carbon dioxide. The amount of bubbling reflects the amount of organic material present. The activity helps determine appropriate locations for certain native plants.

In another experiment titled "What's for Lunch?," educators examine the "eating habits" of pitcherplants. Pitcher leaves included in the kits are dissected and their insect contents are examined. Following these experiments, teachers developed hypotheses and designed experiments to test them.

Participants learned about plant growth and propagation by using Wisconsin Fast Plants (Brassica plants with a 37 day life cycle from seed to seed). Following this introduction to life cycles, teachers studied propagation techniques for terrestrial wildflowers and bog species. Seeds, propagation "boats," and growing instructions were provided to all workshop teachers. Teachers also learned how to build raised beds and pitcherplant bogs. Instruction covered a number of other topics from introducing the GEPSN project to your students to fundraising.

Upon completing the training, teachers became eligible to receive an official state permit for propagating endangered plants species (issued through the Georgia Department of Natural Resource's Natural Heritage Program). Ongoing teacher support includes a webpage and newsletter (The Green Plant Blues News). Both provide GEPSN teachers with a current seedlist, notices about upcoming workshops, and background on protected plants in Georgia. In summer 1998 funding was received from the Trustees Garden Club of Savannah to hire an intern to help coordinate support services to teachers.

Jim Affolter, Chair, Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, states, "The GEPSN project makes learning about endangered plants fun and stimulating, for both teachers and students. Because there are so many facets to the program—teacher training sessions, field work and gardening projects on the school sites, puppet shows and study kits—everyone has a chance to participate. Coupled with the program's well conceived teaching philosophy and strong follow-up support, this approach provides a recipe for success that could be repeated in many communities, wherever teachers are searching for ways to engage young students in issues and methods of plant conservation."

Teacher response is enthusiastic! To date, approximately 150 teachers have been trained and 40 pitcherplant bogs and numerous raised beds for other endangered plants have been installed at participating schools. Best of all, as the children actually plant, care for and investigate these endangered plants, they begin to care about the larger environment and the seeds of environmental stewardship are planted.

GEPSN Workshops

  • June 14-16, 1999, State Botanical Garden.
  • September 30, October 1 & 2, 1999, Callaway Gardens; contact Kathryn Hayden 706-663-5146.
  • November 4-6, 1999, Atlanta Botanical Garden; contact Cindy Gottlieb 404-876-5859.
  • January-February, 2000, Workshop offered via GSAMS distance-learning, broadcast to four locations throughout the state of Georgia; contact Anne Shenk, 706-542-6158.

AND NOW, A FEW WORDS FROM OUR GEPSN INTERN, JAY AVERETT

The final days of the first GEPSN internship are drawing to a close and thus a few remarks are in order. For much of the last year I have been troubleshooting the problems that have arisen; I have tried to fill in the gaps between what could be done by a few over-worked but enthusiastic people and what had to be done in order to realize the demands of the burgeoning Georgia Endangered Plant Stewardship Network. To me the internship was not about the many trips to Target and Home Depot gathering the supplies for the GEPSN Activity Kits; it wasn't grappling with the grouchy computers in the lab in order to generate all of the posters we hoped to provide in the Kits. This internship was about the effect of the end products on the students and plant conservation and beating the odds.

Those Activity Kits (and many other workshop materials) were assembled only a few days before the first satellite broadcast of the Green Plant Blues workshop in January, 1999. They were needed, however, at all the locations to which the workshop was broadcast via satellite. Therefore, I drove the materials to their respective workshop sites in a period of 24 hours the weekend before meltdown, logging 886 miles. The satellite workshops were a huge success. Nearly 50 teachers were trained from as far afield as Quitman in Brooks County and as close to home as Fowler Drive. In northeast Georgia, somehow disaster strikes schoolyard bogs the week before the Grantor comes to check on the Grantee. At least this is what happened at one school not far from Athens. I had been trying to arrange a school bog restoration day which was to involve a GEPSN high school and a GEPSN elementary school (the one with the sick bog) for months. But stellar teachers are busy teachers, and between their extraordinary efforts to add stimulating programs to their rigorous teaching schedules, soccer practices, and my own busy schedule, we were never able to make it happen. Fortunately at the last minute, we pulled it together. New plants were gladly exchanged for reaffirmed vows that this summer the water would flow. The Grantor was pleased, a new sense of ownership and interest was kindled at the elementary school, and (not the least important) more space was created in the State Botanical Gardens Plant Conservation Programs crowded greenhouse.

There are dozens of stories like these to tell where thanks to luck, effort, and all of our dedication to GEPSN, it all came together. The hours I have spent holding a phone waiting to speak with someone about something, the days of staring into a computer screen wondering why on earth the printer could not print a rough draft of "How to make a flower model," and the dozens of seed boats reporting "0% germination" were not what really happened in this last year. I finally got to talk with whoever it was; I finally figured out what was wrong with the printer; and I collected new seeds.

What really happened was that with the dedicated nurturing from all of its members GEPSN continued to grow and flourish. It has certainly come of age now. The numbers are up, the interest is high, and education is its own momentum. Next year there will be workshops in Atlanta, Athens, and Pine Mountain. GSAMS will broadcast workshops to Savannah, Valdosta, and Rome. I would like to thank all of the members of GPCA who offered their continual support and advice, and I look forward to more such interactions in the future. Also, I would like to especially thank the Trustees Garden Club of Savannah who graciously funded this important position.

GPCA CHARTER MEMBER PROFILE: THE GEORGIA NATURAL HERITAGE PROGRAM
Written by Cindy Reittinger, Director of Education, Atlanta Botanical Garden

Of Georgia's 3600 plant species, approximately 600 are considered rare. How do we know this? . . . because the Georgia Natural Heritage Program (GNHP) is keeping track. Established in 1986, the GNHP is a program of the Georgia Department of Natural Resource's Wildlife Division. Housed in two brown trailers on the Wildlife Division Headquarters' property near Social Circle, it is one of three subdivisions of the Nongame Wildlife/Natural Heritage Section.

The Natural Heritage Program is a worldwide program initiated by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). TNC established the standards for compiling, verifying and mapping biological data as well as site evaluation methods that emphasize rare species and significant natural communities. There are Heritage Programs in all 50 states as well as several other countries. All Heritage Programs use the same methodology to track data and the same database—the Biological Conservation Database (BCD).

The Mission of the GNHP
The primary function of the GNHP is "facilitating the preservation of Georgia's natural diversity by compiling, analyzing and disseminating information on rare species and natural communities in Georgia." Before you can determine what is rare, however, you must assess the existing natural diversity by documenting occurrences of plants, animals and communities. This is a huge undertaking. Georgia is a large state—the largest east of the Mississippi—with diverse habitats ranging from mountains to coastline. Each of the state's five physiographic regions—Cumberland Plateau, Ridge and Valley, Blue Ridge, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain—has unique geology, soils, and vegetation types with distinctive plant and animal communities. The GNHP staff has their work cut out for them; there are only eleven staff to carry out this monumental mission. In addition to two botanists, the staff includes three ecologists, a data manager, two technicians, a GIS specialist, a secretary and a program manager.

Key Components: Technology and Scientific Expertise
Computer technology and mapping are crucial components of the Heritage Program. All data that is collected in the field must be documented. The GNHP's Tracking List of Special Concern Plants of Georgia includes 598 species. An additional 297 species are included in the Georgia Plant Watch List—plants that require additional documentation to determine their conservation status. Both lists include a habitat description for each species, status at the state and federal level, and global and state rarity rankings. (The ranking scale is 1-5 with one being extremely rare and 5 being extremely common.) There are also listings for approximately 330 animal species.

Methods for manipulating the data are continually being refined. The GNHP has recently developed a computer program that can in seconds identify the rare plants living within a three mile radius of any point on the state map—a task that used to take hours! This is all based however, on an incomplete picture of what we know to be out there. That brings us to the other key component of the GNHP—the fieldwork of scientists.

After twelve years the GNHP scientists are still working to complete the picture. It is a slow, carefully documented process. All recent and historic sightings of plants, animals, and natural communities are recorded on 1100 topographic maps contained in hanging files on one wall of the GNHP office. The map data is also contained in manual files and computer files. Staff scientists must verify all reported sightings, which come from a variety of sources.

GNHP scientists also conduct research on federally listed species, assist with recovery plans, issue transport tags for protected plants, and maintain harvest and export records for American ginseng. They conduct surveys on state managed lands for rare species and natural communities and assist with the development of management plans for Wildlife Management Areas, Public Fishing Areas, and Natural Areas.

How the Information is Used
The ultimate success of efforts to protect Georgia's natural wealth depends upon the accurate assessment of its natural diversity. The data collected by the GNHP can be used to locate areas in greatest need of protection and rank these lands for various protection methods. It can also be used by planners to evaluate the environmental impact of proposed development projects and by natural resource developers to direct projects to less sensitive land and avoid sites with rare species or natural areas. The information also helps scientists and educators by making them aware of potential research sites.

The GNHP also maintains digital wetland and landcover databases developed for comprehensive planning statewide, watershed characterizations, and in-house environmental assessments.

The involvement of GNHP botanist, Tom Patrick, in the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance is a prime opportunity to share what is known with botanical gardens and other conservation organizations. It also provides the GNHP with networking opportunities outside the Department of Natural Resources and affords them information about species that occur on private property. It's a win-win situation for all.

Anyone interested in contacting the GNHP for more information can call 706-557-3032 or send e-mail to: natural_heritage@mail.dnr.state.ga.us.

POTENTIAL RESEARCH PROJECTS

Students, professionals, lend me your skills! Looking for a project that will have direct benefit for Georgia plant species and habitats? See below for a sampling of potential projects. Call or email Jennifer Ceska, GPCA Coordinator, for more information (706-542-6448 or jceska@arches.uga.edu).

  • Soil chemistry and fire dynamics—effects on Georgia populations of Thalictrum cooleyi including Dry Creek Swamp TNC Preserve
  • Effects of fire on subxeric forest herb flora or community structure, Marshall Forest TNC Preserve
  • Water level management and controlled burning in a beaver-occupied pond cypress wetland, Oakbin Pond TNC Preserve
  • Fire ecology of pine-hardwood forests in the southern Ridge and Valley and Cumberland Plateau physiographic provinces in Georgia, including Marshall Forest and Black's Bluff TNC preserves
  • Landscape-level natural community management in a public and private preserve mosaic along the Little Ohooppee River dune ridge
  • Succession dynamics in abandoned rice plantations (estuarine) including Cathead Creek TNC Preserve
  • Effects of acid rain on east Georgia granite rock outcrops, including Camp meeting Rock TNC Preserve
  • Restoration of loblolly pine and slash pine plantations to longleaf pine and wiregrass woodlands at Broxton Rocks TNC Preserve
  • Restoration of fire-suppressed dry hammock forest to longleaf pine and wiregrass woodland at Shackleford-Williams Bluff TNC Preserve
  • Floristic survey of the Upper Etowah River Watershed
  • Monitoring mountain bog plant species in Lumpkin County, including a search for additional habitat containing vascular plants species indicative of mountain bogs
  • Floristic survey of the Chestatee River Watershed
  • Monitor populations of rare plants, animals, and natural communities within the Altamaha River basin. Information needed to develop community characterization abstracts and management recommendations
  • Study the biology and ecology of lesser-known rare plant species such as Dicerandra radfordiana and Bumelia species
  • Floristic survey of a relict mountain site on Fall Line of Georgia

IT'S A NOURSE OF COURSE! HUGH AND CAROL NOURSE, VOLUNTEERS EXTRAORDINAIRE

GPCA has enjoyed a tremendous leap in publicity and professional recognition thanks to the efforts of two amazing volunteers, Carol and Hugh Nourse. They recently published their second full color article on GPCA in the Winter 1999 edition of Wildflower (15(1), pp. 10-15). The first was published in The American Gardener magazine (July/August, 1998, pp. 41-45). The Nourses worked more than 144 hours on these two articles, traveling to each member institution, interviewing scientists and educators in the GPCA, and photographing GPCA members in action in the field. They attended several GPCA work parties, documenting the progress of each field trip. Jim Affolter, Chair of the GPCA praised their efforts, "the Nourses were able to ask direct questions and receive honest answers from GPCA participants that none of us could have assembled had we done this ourselves. The time they invested in researching these articles reflects their commitment to supporting plant conservation efforts in Georgia."

Their photography is breathtakingly beautiful, exquisitely detailed, and scientifically accurate. Many GPCA institutions and GPCA projects benefit from the skills of the Nourses. We use their photos in scientific publications, brochures, posters, and slide shows. The Nourses are assisting the GPCA by photo-monitoring natural habitats from permanently marked photo points, enabling us to document changes over time during restoration efforts (e.g., Doerun Pitcherplant Bog Natural Area). The Nourses have been documenting rare, threatened, and endangered plants of Georgia in the wild, capturing diagnostic characteristics that the Heritage program has found extremely valuable. Tom Patrick, Botanist with the Georgia Natural Heritage Program, reminded us that the Georgia DNR is using Nourse photos for interpretation at State Parks, the first being an interpretive panel at "The Pocket" boardwalk, the trail head of Shirley Miller Wildlife Trail. The GEPSN school project has also received assistance from the Nourses. Hugh and Carol spent three afternoons with 35 muddy fifth graders at Malcolm Bridge Elementary School in Watkinsville, Georgia and created the "Build a Bog" slide show. We also feature their photos in the GEPSN Science Kit's Endangered Plants of Georgia poster series and the Causes of Endangerment poster series.

In their spare time, the Nourses are completing their first book. The title is "Wildflowers of Georgia, a Celebration of Their Diversity and Conservation." It will be a full color publication with approximately 80 photos from the Nourse's collection, published by the University of Georgia Press. We are all looking forward to the book signing, and you can bet that GPCA members will be waiting in line to receive autographs.

GPCA FUNDING

GPCA has received funding from Turner Foundation, Inc., National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Small Grants Program, Eisenhower Plan for the Improvement of Math and Science, GSAMS: Department of Administrative Services Grant, and in-kind contributions from the GPCA charter member institutions.

Recent grant awards include: 1) Turner Foundation, Inc. $60,000 two year grant award supporting four GPCA projects (Give Plants a Voice Plant Conservation Camp, GEPSN Project support, GPCA graduate assistantship program, and Georgia pitcherplant bog restoration projects), and 2) Nongame Wildlife Educational Grant $4,200 award supporting the development of demonstration pitcherplant bogs at four GEPSN regional training centers and the development of a pitcherplant bog poster for schools. GPCA members work as a team sourcing, writing, and budgeting these grants. Special thanks and congratulations to Ron Determann and Anne Shenk for their work in obtaining the Turner and Nongame grant awards.

GPCA research and education projects receive significant support from GPCA member institutions. In a recent assessment of documented in-kind contributions from GPCA member institutions, we estimated the organizations contribute over $127,000 annually to GPCA research and education projects. We believe this to be a conservative estimate. If you would like to contribute to GPCA projects, please make your check payable to the "State Botanical Garden of Georgia" and (note: this next step is critical!) write "for GPCA" on the memo line. Your donations will directly support GPCA research and education projects.

GPCA WISH LIST

  • 40 rolls Velvia Fujichrome slide film
  • 200 irrigation/survey flags
  • 50 stainless steel stakes
  • 2, new or used, 4-wheel drive vehicles
  • large Rubbermaid containers for storage