Rare Plant Communities Initiative
A fen meadow in the Sequoia National Forest, 2010.
Through its Rare Plant Communities Initiative (RPC), CNPS is developing tools and training individuals/groups to identify and protect rare vegetation types as key units of biodiversity.
Vegetation types provide key ecosystem services by maintaining water cycles, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and providing habitat for rare plant and animal species. Conversion and degradation of rare vegetation types can disrupt the integrity of the ecological functions of our natural environments, leading to the loss of sensitive plant and animal species and a corresponding decrease in biodiversity. The inherent values of vegetation have lead scientists and conservationists to make use of vegetation patterns as a surrogate for ecosystems for many years.
With this Initiative, CNPS has begun a multi-step process to identify, inventory, map, and track rare communities throughout the state. The main objectives are to:
Mapping Rare Plant Communities
In February 2011, CNPS completed the Guidelines for Mapping of Rare Vegetation to assist in the development and standardization of rare plant community mapping throughout the state. We encourage you to download and use these Guidelines and to share your feedback so that we can continue to refine them during the 2012 field season. You can download the Guidelines for Mapping Rare Vegetation by clicking here or through our Vegetation Sampling, Classification, & Mapping page.
Recent updates of the Rare Plant Communities Initiative:
Fen Reports Finalized
A separate report for fens of the Lake Tahoe Basin was just finalized. You can view this fen report here, or you can access this and additional fen reports on our Reports page under the ‘Fen Vegetation, U.S. Forest Service Lands’ section.
Workshops Held in Southern California
Enjoying the shade in a Tamarix sp. grove, BLM employees learn about mapping vegetation. Photo by D. Stout.
In late April 2011, Vegetation Program staff held two Rare Plant Community sampling and mapping workshops in southern California.
Danielle Roach and Deborah Stout led a 2-day workshop in the Chuckwalla Wilderness for BLM Palm Springs Field Office staff. During this workshop, 11 BLM staff members learned how to survey using the CNPS/DFG combined Rapid Assessment and Relevé protocols. This workshop provided BLM Palm Springs staff with the tools needed to undertake vegetation assessment and mapping in wilderness areas that they manage.
The Chuckwalla Wilderness encompasses myriad vegetation types including creosote shrublands, desert wash scrublands and woodlands, and desert pavement habitats. Nine surveys were completed, four of which were conducted in rare plant communities including the Parkinsonia florida – Olneya tesota Woodland Alliance. Stand locations have been plotted in GIS and survey data entered into our ever-expanding database for use in future classification and mapping efforts. CNPS extends a special thanks to BLM staff for assisting in planning this successful workshop.
Workshop participants gather under a sunny sky to sample a wash scrubland community with California sagebrush (Artemisia californica). Photo by D. Stout
Immediately following this workshop, a second 1-day workshop was held in Orange County for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff and CNPS Chapter members. Twenty-one participants from the Conservancy, Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District, US Forest Service, and the Orange County and Riverside-San Bernardino Chapters. In addition to conducting surveys in rare alluvial scrub communities, CNPS staff forged new relationships with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff and renewed ties with southern California Chapter members. Vegetation Program staff held a similar workshop earlier in the year in a continued effort to train the public in sampling and mapping techniques, while strengthening ties to our distant southern California chapters. We are looking for additional funds to continue this important work.