Species leads are in charge of coordinating information and work on their given species. This can range from knowing what plants are currently growing where to planting reintroduction populations and monitoring their progress. Species leads serve as the main communication hubs for work on their taxons. Leads are encouraged to form teams to handle all the on-the-ground work. Anyone with students should consider ways to use them for this work.
Primary areas of responsibility:
- Know locations and population sizes of species
- Know legal status of land where populations are growing, i.e., public/private, ownership, permits
We need to know where plants are growing wild, and how those populations are faring from year to year. Annual surveys are ideal, or the team can develop a survey plan that will ensure that all populations are visited regularly.
Leads may need to get permission from landowners to do surveys on private land, or see about getting necessary permits from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, etc.
For species that are undergoing ex situ conservation, leads can also:
- Plan and oversee multi-year seed collection
- Plan and oversee propagation for safeguarding and outplanting
- Plan and oversee outplanting
- Monitor reintroduced/augmented plantations and give them care if necessary and appropriate
Growing plants in botanical gardens and other ex situ locations provides a vital backup of genetic material for research and possible reintroduction material. Botanical gardens can keep propagules for safeguarding and outplanting as well as including endangered plants in their display gardens.
Seed banking is another line of defense against the disappearance of genetic material. Seed collected according to CPC guidelines can be sent to Mike Kunze for long-term storage; the collector can hold back 20% of collected seeds for propagation. Species leads can coordinate a seed collection schedule that avoids putting too much pressure on wild populations.
Why is a species rare? This is often a matter of life history; for example, fire-adapted species tend not to thrive when humans prevent regular wildfires from occurring. Charles Horn has compiled a Life History checklist that can be used to determine why any given species is declining.