The Southeast U.S. is a biodiversity hotspot – an area rich in unique habitats and plants that, because of anthropogenic influences and climate change, is at increased risk of loss. The region is home to over 11,000 native plant species, 30% of which are endemic. Of the 65 plants that have vanished in North America since European settlement, nearly 40% (25) are from the Southeast U.S. Of an additional seven plants extinct in the wild (only known in ex situ collections), four are from the Southeast U.S.
Ex situ plant conservation is the maintenance and care of living plant material outside a species’ natural habitat, in the form of whole plants, seeds, pollen, tissues, and other viable germplasm. With growing environmental threats to wild plant populations, ex situ conservation is often of vital importance for long-term species survival. In addition to providing a safe haven to prevent a species’ complete extinction, ex situ collections support awareness-building for millions of botanic garden visitors and students each year by providing important and relevant plant conservation information. When produced from wild and genetically diverse material, ex situ plants can also supply material for reintroduction programs.
The Southeastern Plant Conservation Alliance (SE PCA), in partnership with the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Botanic Gardens Conservation International, U.S. (BGCI-US), and NatureServe conducted an ex situ collections survey in early 2021. The analyses presented in this report provide a framework for assessing current ex situ representation and gaps for high priority Southeastern U.S. plants of greatest conservation need. The results show fantastic progress for the Southeast U.S. and is above average when compared to other regional ex situ analyses recently completed by BGCI-US. This demonstrates the valuable work of ex situ institutions in the Southeast U.S. Our collective achievements and goals will guide ongoing efforts for our region to promote global standards for biodiversity conservation. This includes securing the majority of Southeast U.S. rare plants in seed banks and cultivated (ex situ) living collections and implementing recovery and restoration programs that return ex situ material to the wild (in situ).
The SE PCA is a public and private partnership of professionals bridging gaps between local and national plant conservation efforts and collaborating to prevent and restore the loss of plant diversity in the Southeast U.S. The Alliance is tailored to multiple interests to provide training opportunities, fill information gaps, identify conservation needs, prioritize efforts, and work collaboratively to conserve imperiled plants. The goals of the SE PCA are being achieved by promoting best practices, adapting successful models, novel partnerships, and creative solutions to challenges while leveraging shared resources.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden has more than 30 years of experience in the conservation and recovery of rare and threatened plant species through research, propagation, collaborative restoration and habitat management. Through its Southeastern Center for Conservation & Research, the Atlanta Botanical Garden advances the science of conservation through research, collaborations, and native species recovery programs that include conservation collections at the Garden and applied conservation activities that support preservation of species in their native habitats.
For nearly 50 years, NatureServe has been the authoritative source for biodiversity data throughout the Americas. To protect threatened biodiversity, NatureServe works with nearly 100 organizations and over 1,000 conservation scientists to collect, analyze, and deliver standardized biodiversity information, providing comprehensive spatial data to meet both regulatory and conservation needs.
Botanic Gardens Conservation International is a global network representing some 600 institutional members in nearly 100 countries that exists to ensure the worldwide conservation of plant diversity. BGCI-US connects conservation interests, best practices, and information with botanic gardens and conservation partners to secure threatened plants in North America and around the world.
The SE PCA is currently coordinated by Atlanta Botanical Garden, with state, regional, and national partners. More than 120 individual members represent government agencies, land managers, botanical gardens, university programs, plus other experts and professionals; 20+ leaders make up the SE PCA leadership team; our footprint includes 17 U.S. states and territories.