Magazine article Endangered Species Bulletin

Collaborative Conservation of the Beach Clustervine

Magazine article Endangered Species Bulletin

Collaborative Conservation of the Beach Clustervine

Article excerpt

Coasts are areas of overlap--natural interfaces between the well-defined systems of land and sea. Although this mingling of terrestrial and marine habitats makes coastal zones difficult to categorize, it can also encourage a special brand of biological "collaboration."

In a coastal zone, marine and terrestrial ecosystems interact constantly; they exchange nutrients, modify weather patterns, alter terrain, and support specialized flora and fauna. As with any collaboration, the interface that is a coastal system could not exist without the contributions of each participant.

Following nature's example, Fairchild Tropical Garden initiated a collaborative effort in 2000 to restore the beach clustervine (Jacquemontia reclinata), an endangered plant in the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae), to the coastal dune system of southeastern Florida. This project brings together researchers, horticulturists, restoration ecologists, students, and land managers from different agencies and institutions, including Fairchild Tropical Garden; Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties; City of Boca Raton; and Florida International and Valdosta universities. The team is conducting the research necessary to make informed management decisions, and will work together to plan and construct a network for long-term management. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Florida International University Tropical Biology Program, Florida Native Plant Society, and Garden Club of America/Center for Plant Conservation have provided funding.

South Florida's coastal dunes and the beach clustervine

It is easy to see why the beauty of coastal areas in southern Florida--the rolling, white sands, bright wildflowers, waving grasses, and soothing ocean--have been attractive to so many people. But the popularity of this environment threatens its survival. Intense coastal development and recreational use have drastically reduced the extent of the once contiguous coastal dune ecosystem. Activities associated with human use and development (including beach renourishment, raking, pollution, and sand mining) have further degraded remnant habitats. Additionally, competition with nonnative, invasive species like Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) and Australian-pine (Cassuarina spp.) threatens some native species. As these invasive species encroach on native shoreline vegetation, they eliminate the open, sunny habitat patches that the beach clustervine and many other native coastal dune plant species require.

Subsequent to habitat loss and degradation, the beach clustervine, a terrestrial vine with small, white flowers and many spreading stems, suffered severe reductions in both numbers and distribution. It was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1993. Currently, about 800 individuals persist in nine sites spread over a 90-mile (144-kilometer) stretch of coastline. Extensive mapping and surveying efforts have revealed that most individuals are located in just two sites, making the beach clustervine especially vulnerable to catastrophic events such as hurricanes and intense fires.

Several of Florida's state-listed endangered species share coastal habitat with the beach clustervine. Populations of the beach peanut (Okenia hypogenaea), beach star (Cyperus pedunculatus), and wild-lime (Zanthoxylum coriaceaum) are vulnerable to the same forces threatening the beach clustervine. …

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