Preventing Extinctions

A key objective of the Negaunee Institute’s research and conservation program is developing a deeper understanding of the threats to plant life and acting on this information to prevent extinctions. Habitat fragmentation, climate change, disrupted population demographics and genetic diversity, are just some of the threats that can result in extinction of plant species.

Ecological Consequences of Earlier Flowering under Climate Change

Ecological Consequences of Earlier Flowering under Climate Change

Climate change is shifting flowering dates in polar and temperate regions around the world, but we know relatively little about the demographic consequences of these shifted flowering times, especially whether there are consequences for population persistence. Plants that initiate life-cycle events earlier could be tracking their preferred climate conditions, which simply occur on an earlier calendar date under climate change.

Viola Seed Germination

Viola Seed Germination

We are using a multi-step approach to investigate the presence of adaptive genetic variation for seed dormancy, and the interaction of genetic and environmental controls on this dormancy, on widespread, high-priority restoration species in the genus Viola that are known to have challenging seed dormancy. Many Viola species are known to exhibit physiological dormancy.

Demography in Severely Fragmented Prairie Populations of the Purple Coneflower

Demography in Severely Fragmented Prairie Populations of the Purple Coneflower

This research project investigates the biology, conservation, and restoration of plants and insects in tallgrass prairie. It focuses on a model study system: a common native prairie plant, Echinacea angustifolia (the narrow-leaved purple coneflower), growing in remnant populations within an agricultural landscape in western Minnesota. The team comprises scientists based at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the University of Minnesota and has been funded by the National Science Foundation since 2000.

Restoring the Last Natural Forest of Widdringtonia whytei (Cupressaceae)

Restoring the Last Natural Forest of Widdringtonia whytei

Reintroductions are increasingly used to expand the occupancy and abundance of endangered species and thus reduce their extinction risk. We have been working on a long-term experimental reintroduction program with the national tree of Malawi, Widdringtonia whytei (Cupressaceae); this Red Listed species has almost been extirpated from its natural range on Mt. Mulanje, Malawi.

Assessing and Maintaining Genetic Diversity in in situ Populations and ex situ Collections

Brighamia insignis

The maintenance of biodiversity is an important objective of many conservation plans. We are working with a number of institutions to assess the levels of genetic diversity that currently exist in a number of rare species, both in situ and ex situ. This includes working with numerous partners on the vulnerable Cirsium hillii and the federally listed, Cirsium pitcheri.