Sunday, July 27, 2008

Botanists sound the alarm as rare species face extinction

Miami Herald: Six years ago, ecologists at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden painstakingly gathered the seeds of a vine found only in eight wild spots from Palm Beach County through Miami-Dade so they could be grown in a nursery and then reestablished in their natural habitat. But as seas rise with climate change, the beaches may be inundated and the dozen patches of beach jacquemontia, or clustervine, nourished with so much care may be lost.

As climate change affects everything from human health to agriculture, plant scientists are trying to cope with a future that might thwart the task to which they have devoted themselves for decades -- saving all the species of the planet's biological diversity. Although climate change has been identified as a direct contributor to the extinction of only a few species of flora and fauna so far, plant scientists fear that may soon accelerate. ''We may lose 30 percent of the plants by 2050,'' says Kathryn Kennedy, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Plant Conservation in St. Louis.

Others predict even higher losses. A temperature increase of 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit -- considered a mid-range rise, neither the highest nor lowest prediction -- could wipe out 22 to 75 percent of plant species by 2050, a team of 19 ecologists wrote in the journal Nature in 2004.

…. ''I think of rare species as canaries in the coal mine,'' says Joyce Maschinski, who heads Fairchild's South Florida conservation team. ``Our world is undergoing change at a magnitude that's unprecedented. It's hard to predict which species will make it through the bottleneck. But the more we have, the better chance we'll have for something to make it.''….

Forest and Kim Starr took this shot of Jacquemontia ovalifolia subsp. sandwicensis. From: Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project, Wikimedia Commons


Anonymous said...

You should have a picture of the plant related to the article. The correct plant is Jacquemontia reclinata, found nowhere else in the world except South Florida

Brian Thomas said...

I should have one -- but I couldn't find one in the public domain or available under one of the expansive licenses. That often happens, I'm afraid. Several botanically informed friends are quick to point out these shortcomings.