FW: Saving Endangered Plants

Nhu Nguyen xerantheum@gmail.com
Tue, 13 Sep 2011 09:24:38 PDT

I have read these posts with interest, but have remained quiet for the most
part, mainly observing, but I feel like I should respond to the email
forwarded to us by Shirley.

I understand and regard the work by conservationists of utmost importance in
the preservation of biodiversity on earth. However, I can't help but take on
a more negative side of things because of the reality of the matter. Species
are being lost at an amazing rate and even with all the specialized
conservation efforts out there, it's just not enough. These groups and
agencies are bounded by budget, workers, and bureaucratic red tape that it
is not possible for them to maximize their effort.

There are a few points in which I question as the main concerns stated in
the email. Probably because of my ignorance, but I don't know of any
documented cases where people would go and collect rare wild plants of
something already widespread in cultivation. Perhaps someone with more
knowledge can educate me on this point and the ones below.

One of the concerns is about selection and loss of genetic diversity in
garden grown plants. But don't conservation agencies grow their plants in
nurseries? Sure, they may have a lot more genetic material available, but
don't all of them go through the same selection process when they are grown
in the nursery? When they are re-introduced, don't the plants suffer from
the same fate of death by natural selection as any regular garden plant?

Let's say that a "Johnny Appleseed" garden grown plant makes it back out
into the wild and starts to intermingle with the native population. The fact
that a garden grown plant survives in the wild means that it has the
genetics to withstand at least some of the selection pressure in the wild.
In which case, is it so bad for the genes from this apparent successful
plant be transferred to the native population? If the progeny of the garden
x wild plant does not contain good genes, they will just be wiped out by the
natural selection forces. This argument of course discounts the importance
of pollen/seed competition between wild and garden plant and it ignores

What about diseases? Are there documented cases of diseases being spread by
a "Johnny Appleseed" garden plant? If it's a fungal disease, there is a good
chance that the spores are already spread from plants grown in gardens to
the nearby wild populations. The fact that wild plants survive, means that
they have some sort of resistance.

With the impetus of biodiversity disappearing, there must be an effort made
immediately to reach any help possible. It is no longer feasible for small
conservation groups to work on conservation alone. I understand the concerns
about reintroductions but these concerns are holding everyone back. So
instead of wishing that more people could help, why not give the people who
are interested a push in the right direction? Like someone mentioned
earlier, the approaches may be different but the goals are the same.

Berkeley, CA

From: Kathryn Kennedy [mailto:Kathryn.Kennedy@mobot.org]
> Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2011 5:17 AM
> Subject: RE: [pbs] Saving Endangered Plants
> Commercialization does have real risks...including increasing the threat of
> irresponsible overcollection and damage in the wild of the few existing
> delicate sites remainng because of creating a wider market of interest in
> the plants, people deriving material in cultivation so that it no longer
> has
> the wild adapted traits desired and could present genetic risk to wild
> populations, etc., and compassionate enthusiasts with too low an
> understanding of the habitat specificity and considerations doing informal
> "jonny appleseed" reintroductions in areas where they can do harm to the
> target species or others in the area (and damage the reputation of
> horticulturists, gardeners, and serious botanical gardens everywhere with
> the state and federal resource agencies).

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