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100 Bancroft Street | Omaha, NE| 68108| (402) 346-4002 | lauritzengardens.org

CONSERVATION NEWS

LAURITZEN GARDENS DOCUMENTS "HOT SPOTS" OF GRASSLAND BIODIVERSITY

Just published research by the Lauritzen Gardens conservation program aims to help guide grassland conservation efforts in the United States.

In "Endemic Plants of the Central Grassland of North America: Distribution, Ecology, and Conservation Status," director of conservation Jim Locklear identifies 382 plants with geographic distributions that are mostly limited to the grasslands and related plant communities of the midcontinent. Of these "endemic" and uniquely grassland plants, 124 or 33% are at risk of extinction.

Locklear found that 78% of all grassland endemics are habitat specialists and associated with either rock outcrop, sand, or wetland habitats. These habitats typically occur as discrete "habitat islands" and often harbor a greater diversity of plants than that occurring in surrounding plant communities.

One of the most significant findings was the identification of nine regional concentrations of endemic plants in the Central Grassland. In addition to hosting high numbers of localized endemics, many of which are at-risk, these regions are enriched by more widely distributed grassland endemics as well as other locally-rare plants, marking them as "hotspots" of biological diversity for the Central Grassland.

It is hoped that these findings will be useful in focusing conservation action on the habitats, ecological associations, and regions of the Central Grassland that host the highest concentrations of unique and at-risk plant species and associated biological diversity.

The garden's research is published in the current issue of the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas and can be accessed on-line at: http://brit.org/webfm_send/1775

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