For local readers, a quick note: Linda Jennings, collections manager of the UBC Herbarium, is giving a talk on “Women Botanists of Western North America” this Thursday evening (see announcement on the Native Plant Society of BC web site). I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence that it occurs so near to International Women’s Day (March 8).
Also, the next BPotD series coming up is our annual focus on UBC plant research for UBC’s Celebrate Research Week. That one will be followed later in the month by our March educational theme, “Biodiversity and the North”.
Lindsay Bourque is responsible for today’s write-up:
Throughout this series on sports and biodiversity, Botany Photo of the Day has featured plants that have contributed to the development of sports. However, the increase in sport recreation has also taken it toll on the environment. A 1994 study by the United States Forest Service concluded that habitat destruction was the leading cause of species endangerment, threatening 80 percent or more of federally listed species. In a separate study, recreation was found to affect 23-26 percent of threatened or endangered species with the most detrimental affect coming from the improper use of off-road vehicles. These vehicles can also cause acceleration of soil compaction and erosion, pollution of water and air, destruction of vegetation, and spread of invasive plant species.
There has been an ongoing battle between environmental protection groups and off-roading advocacy groups in Imperial County in southeast California regarding the use of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (sometimes called the “Glamis Dunes”). On a peak weekend, upwards of 100 000 riders recreate in the dunes. Within the 720 km2 Recreation Area, the 105 km2 Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area (PDF map) forms a unique ecosystem fostering a number of endemic species. Some of these species are now endangered, primarily due to habitat loss previously caused by off-road vehicles. One species listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act is Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii, a desert ephemeral found only in the Algodones Dunes. Commonly known as Peirson’s milkvetch, this attractive silvery plant germinates only during years of sufficient rainfall. Peirson’s milkvetch produces the largest seeds of any milkvetch, providing an exceptional reservoir of stored carbohydrate for the next generation of plants to tap when germinating deep in the sand. In 2000, 200 km2 of the Algodones Dunes (including the Wilderness Area and buffer zones) were closed to off-road vehicles. Later studies showed the population rebounding. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is now reviewing the closure decision and may re-open portions of the dunes to off-road vehicles.