GLENCOE, Ill. (July 29, 2013) –The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plants of Concern (POC) program was recently awarded a $14,000 Wildlife Preservation Fund Grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. This grant is designed to preserve, protect, perpetuate and enhance non-game wildlife and native plant resources of Illinois through preservation of a satisfactory environment and an ecological balance. POC is a regional rare plant monitoring program designed to assess long-term trends in the state’s rarest plant species.
Co-founded in 2000 by Susanne Masi, manager of regional floristics at the Chicago Botanic Garden, POC monitors plants in eight counties of northeastern Illinois including Cook, Lake, DuPage, McHenry, Kane, Will, Kendall and Kankakee. It is a collaboration of trained volunteers, “citizen scientists,” working together with land managers and scientists. The data collected provide land managers with information that helps them set management goals for species within a habitat context and evaluate management practices.
“Everyday citizens serving as scientists enable us to monitor endangered and threatened plant species throughout the region, despite shrinking public and private resources,” said Ms. Masi. “The citizen corps is crucial to realizing the Biodiversity Recovery plan created by Chicago Wilderness in 1999 and to updating the Illinois Natural Heritage Database for endangered and threatened plants.”
The POC program is founded on four core tenets:
- Monitor endangered, threatened, and locally rare plant species using standardized protocols.
- Assess long-term trends in rare plant populations in response to management activities and/or threats to populations.
- Train volunteers as citizen scientists to monitor rare plant populations and become conservation advocates.
- Provide information on population trends and potential threats to the populations to public and private landowners, land managers, and agencies as feedback to help determine future management practices.
Since its inception in 2000, the program has grown exponentially. Through 2012, POC had trained 781 citizen scientists; partnered with 116 landowners; and monitored 237 endangered, threatened and rare species at 318 sites. The importance of POC’s citizen scientists can not be stressed enough. It is because of the dedication and perseverance of the volunteers that the program continues to thrive. The program has been supported by IDNR through the Wildlife Preservation Fund and other programs since 2004.
The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center enhances the visibility of the program and helps it continue to grow. The Plant Science Center showcases the program as part of the multifaceted approach to plant science undertaken by Garden scientists, which includes ecology, population biology, genetics, and soil science. Additionally, the Plant Science Center’s expanded Herbarium will help POC with identifying monitored species and their associate species.
For more information about the Garden’s Plants of Concern program visit www.chicagobotanic.org/research/plant_conservation/rare_plant or www.plantsofconcern.org; or call Susanne Masi at (847) 835-8269.