The Dawes Arboretum is committed to a strategy that helps further plant conservation locally, regionally and nationally, as well as sharing best practices with global conservation partners. Our conservation focus includes both Ohio state-listed species of concern and the habitats on which they depend, as well as federally listed plant species. We seek to join conservation networks that further the ability help save imperiled plants, and we believe it is best achieved by sharing our knowledge and learning from each other.
An example of our commitment can be seen in a collaboration with The United States Forest Service, at sites such as Wayne National Forest and Vinton Experimental Forest where Arboretum staff are seeking out populations of Ohio state-listed threatened species, such as Viburnum molle and Amelanchier sanguinea, in order to make sustainable harvest of plant material available to others, for the purpose of ex situ conservation. (Ex situ conservation is conserving a plant or animal outside of its usual habitat).
In our living collections, we have 235 plants accessioned of federally or state listed species of concern. The majority of these plants are collected from wild-known origin (WKO), while others have been obtained from fellow institutions or nurseries. Within these collections, some species are being conserved through ex situ means, such as the critically endangered Torreya taxifolia. While some species are threatened on a national scale, our efforts also include obtaining local and state species of concern, conserving distinct populations as well.
Based on our history of successful collection of WKO plant material and our commitment to plant conservation, The Arboretum was selected by the USDA Forest Service to receive a grant award to collect from the small surviving population of Quercus acerifolia remaining in Arkansas. The trip was completed in the fall of 2017, with over 2,200 seeds collected. The seeds were distributed to 19 partnering institutions. Because seed from Quercus acerifolia can be hard to grow, collaboration among a network of living ex situ collections is required to ensure this species is conserved.
The Dawes Arboretum is also part of a major regional conservation effort aimed at restoring the vulnerable American chestnut (Castanea dentata) to its former range in US. In cooperation with The American Chestnut Foundation (ACF), The Arboretum serves as a long-term ecological study site, hosting an orchard of the genetically valuable, blight resistant trees that are being monitored. Along the trails leading to the chestnut orchard, educational tours are offered and signage describing the restoration efforts has been installed to increase visitor awareness about plant conservation efforts.
In support of restoring ecosystems globally, The Dawes Arboretum is an Institutional Member of the Ecological Restoration Alliance and host to several different demonstration projects that highlight best management practices for habitat restoration within forest, wetland and grassland ecosystems. The main goals of these projects include conserving native biodiversity, while exploring habitat restoration techniques that are effective, economically efficient and ecologically sensitive. As insights are gained, these science-based outcomes are shared with fellow professionals and the public. The Arboretum is also an Institutional Member in The Organization of Biological Field Stations (OBFS), which commits our facility to the study and conservation of native flora within the Arboretum’s natural preservation areas. Additional institutional partnerships include a collaborative working group convened by The Morton Arboretum, the Midwest Invasive Plant Network and the Ohio Invasive Plants Council.
Bringing it all Together
In order to increase genetic diversity while conserving local distinct populations, The Dawes Arboretum has significantly expanded our capacity to propagate and grow native plants. While The Arboretum has grown native plants for years, the recent addition of propagation space has provided substantially more native plant material for habitat restoration projects within our borders, as well as making these materials available to our conservation partners.
Currently, The Arboretum shares its plant collections data with BGCI PlantSearch, NACPEC Inventories, Index Herbariorum listed herbarium (DAWES) and PCN multi-institutional maple group shared inventories. Collection location data sharing also includes institutions such as ARS North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station, Ames, IA.
Where opportunities exist in the conservation of threatened or rare species (both herbaceous and woody), The Dawes Arboretum is committed to assisting with these efforts. Our living collections number more than 16,000 plants, including cultivars. More than 20 percent of these 16,000 are wild collected. More than 50 percent of botanical species are of documented wild origin. We are actively collecting and preserving ex situ collections from all over the world and especially southern US sources. We are also putting a greater focus on preserving Ohio native plants that are listed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) as potentially threatened or endangered. The Arboretum protects naturally occurring populations of Ohio state-listed species growing on its grounds, conserving these species and natural habitats simultaneously. As well, species are wild-collected from other locales to protect these plants and provide living collections with a permanence of protection. In addition, The Arboretum raises public awareness of plant conservation through a multitude of educational programs and professional presentations.
Ohio Native Plant Network
In 2010, The Dawes Arboretum along with state and federal agencies, private and public organizations, and respected field professionals, formed the Ohio Native Plant Network (ONPN).
Ohio Native Plant Defined
An Ohio native plant is one that was part of the Ohio landscape in the late 1700s, before European settlers arrived, and when nearly 95 percent of Ohio was forested. The rich woodlands with towering trees, some standing 100-150 feet tall, were some of the most impressive of all temperate zone hardwood forests.
The rapid European settlement of Ohio resulted in a steady decline of forest cover and wetlands, as they were cleared and drained to make way for agriculture. The native plant species that the ONPN focuses on are those that survived the vast changes to the ecosystems during times of settlement.
The ONPN establishes guidelines for the collection, propagation and distribution of trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials of wild known origin. The overarching goal is to create a vision to enhance native plant biodiversity, conserve local genotypes and restore native plant communities in Ohio.
Enhance native plant biodiversity
To enhance native plant biodiversity, the group considers and addresses the following issues:
- Habitat loss and degradation – This is mostly due to competition from non-native, invasive plant species.
- The threat of climate change on present Ohio native plant species – As species decline and disappear, species more tolerant of a warmer, wetter climate will move north and many Ohio native plant species that coexisted and co-evolved with these ecosystems may disappear.
Conserve local genotypes
To attain the goal of conserving local genotypes, the ONPN encourages planters to buy plant material that originates from Ohio and the local eco-region. When the environmental conditions of the plant material source—the seeds—are matched to that of the planting site, the better it grows. This occurs because species have become genetically adapted to their local conditions. Therefore, buying locally will preserve not only the diversity of Ohio native plant species but also genetic diversity within each species.
Restore native plant communities
Another goal of the ONPN is to restore native plant communities in Ohio by working collaboratively with Ohio nursery and landscape industries to ensure the availability and use of common Ohio native plants of local known genotypes.
To accomplish this, seeds from common Ohio native plants of wild known origins are collected and then dispersed to local nursery and landscape industries for their use and for eventual distribution to anyone responsible for creating backyard landscapes as well as restoring natural ecosystems.
Promoting public awareness in regards to Ohio native plant conservation and the value in choosing Ohio native plants of local genotypes for home landscapes will be a key component to the success of the project as it moves forward.