The southeastern United States is a biodiversity hotspot, a place of rich, unique and threatened biodiversity. Nearly 40% of North American plant species that have gone extinct since European settlement were from the Southeast. Today, seven North American plant species that are extinct in the wild persist only in captivity. This highlights the value of “ex situ” plant conservation – the creation and maintenance of collections of threatened species, in the form of seeds, pollen, tissues or whole plants, outside of their natural habitat, such as in botanical gardens and other institutions. Ex situ conservation serves to complement “in situ” conservation actions, such as habitat restoration, which takes place where a species naturally grows in the wild.
Ex situ conservation collections are especially vital when extinction in the wild is imminent. For ex situ conservation collections to be most effective, botanical and conservation organizations must collaborate and communicate with one another, to ascertain which threatened plant species are currently abundant in global conservation collections, and which species are absent or poorly represented. To this end, the “Ex Situ Gap Analysis for High Priority Species of Conservation Concern” report was recently published.
This report is a collaboration among the Southeastern Plant Conservation Alliance (SE PCA), the Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG), Botanic Gardens Conservation International, U.S. (BGCI-US) and NatureServe. The report evaluates how adequately threatened Southeastern plants are represented in conservation collections worldwide, identifying gaps in global and regional collection of these species that need protection most. Learn more about ex-situ conservation of Southeastern plants in this new report, accessible here.