Book Reviews: Conservation Biology

The Conservation and Management of Native Plants and Fungi Kaye, T.N., A. Liston, R.M. Love, D.L. Luoma, R.J. Meinke, and M.V. Wilson, eds. 1997. ISBN 0-9656852-0-9 (paper US$25) 296 pp. Native Plant Society of Oregon, 804 Jefferson Ave., LaGrande, Oregon 97850
- The Conservation and Management of Native Plants and Fungi is a delightful compendium of papers organized by the editors into four broad areas: 1) conservation and management of native plants, 2) restoration of native plants and communities, and two sections devoted to the ecology, biogeography, and systematics of vascular plants, bryophytes, and fungi. The book accurately represents the activities, ideas, and efforts of researchers and managers who presented papers at a November 1995 symposium centered on Oregon's native flora, but its scope is sufficiently broad to be of considerable interest to those contemplating taxonomic studies, designing conservation programs, or seeking information on specific taxa (e.g., the lichen Peltigera, ectomycorrhizal diversity, Erigeron, and even macrobenthic marine algae). In short, there is something for everyone, both readers focused on species biology, and ecologists interested in plant-animal interactions, demography, seed dormancy and seed predation, and habitat management for butterflies. A quick scan of the table of contents will decide its relevance to one's own work. For a bird's eye view, approximately 10%, 24%, 34%, and 32% articles dealt primarily with physiology, ecology, systematics, or conservation and management. Although some authors have published significant studies in widely circulated journals, others present data previously available only in unpublished reports of public and private agencies. Thus the book is an excellent guide to published research, as well as a source of new and useful information. The comments below illustrate the book's diversity, describe a few noteworthy studies, and try to draw the reader's attention to aspects that might otherwise be overlooked. Many papers emphasize the need for more data and suggest avenues for future research.

Sections I and II (20 papers), plus a few papers in section III, focus on conservation and restoration, including "hot topics" such as the potential for genetic swamping of rare plants via hybridization (e.g., Wolf's evening primrose). Topics range from descriptive or experimental studies to comparative theoretical treatments of the matrix projection programs used to track plant demography (Greenlee & Kaye). Several other papers were of particular interest: 1) the paired studies (Wilson et al., Schultz) that detail the complex inter-relationships among plants, the rare Fendler's Blue butterfly, and various eco-political and pragmatic aspects of habitat/species management; and 2) the elegant study in which Jules was able to link habitat fragmentation and demographic patterns in Trillium (i.e., by excavating and aging the rhizomes in forest fragments of different sizes). On a more practical note, Youtie and others describe ways in which volunteers aid plant conservation efforts in the area of weed control. In addition, Guerrant highlights the important and pioneering work of the first private U. S. seed bank for rare plants. He does readers an additional service by defining appropriate off-site use of these rare plants in the sometimes controversial arena of reintroduction and augmentation programs.

Most papers in sections III and IV (21 papers total) have a predominant taxonomic or ecological orientation in relation to the Oregon flora, but are as varied as the definitional criteria for a RED list of macrofungi, studies of nickel localization in serpentine hyperaccumulators, and treatments of the biogeography and systematics of Astragalus and Northwest coastal lichens. Wilson provides an extensive key and photos of Oregon Peltigera, but most other papers lack keys, opting instead for cladograms, descriptive text, or tables (e.g., a notable example likely to be used extensively within the region is B. Wilson's method for differentiating difficult native fescues). In a successful but very different approach, Lyons-Weiler and Tausch employ cladistic methods to help us understand patterns of variability in species diversity. Other useful tidbits include numerous current and historical literature searches (e.g. on hawthorns), Rosentreter's interesting lore about how the lichen "manna" purportedly helped both Alexander's army and the Israelites to avoid starvation, and the excellent appendices on algae and seagrasses, which also underscore the need for more scientific study of under-represented groups. Readers will likely enjoy Silletts' description of the epiphytic cyanolichens: these occur in forests of varied ages, but persist only in old growth sites as a result of the differing canopy microclimate and more limited vertical dispersal in younger stands. Chambers urges us to remember how important plant distributions, ploidy, and alpha taxonomy are as a baseline for investigating such ecological, genetic, and/or evolutionary questions.

In general, the book is an excellent, diverse guide to published research, as well as a source of new and useful information. Some authors have published significant studies in widely circulated journals, but others present data previously available only in unpublished reports of public and private agencies. Thus while one of the strengths of the book is its diversity, a corollary is that its content varies extensively in scientific caliber and style, methodological detail and use of current references, attention to well-edited prose, effective use of statistics (e.g., compare papers by Levine vs Luoma et al.), and consistency of figures and tables. For example, the colloquialisms in Ertter's paper (e.g., "boils down to," and plants that "have been causing headaches"), and a few logical slips that reverse the intended meaning, are all somewhat distracting. However, the important point of her paper is that we should indeed continue to seek better ways of designing protocols for taxa that exhibit clines or "intermediate" patterns of variability. Moreover, while Imper's papers set an excellent precedent for generating effective conservation management tools for species biology, the small figures are somewhat difficult to read. Yet overall the book has remarkably few publication errors, and photos usually reproduced very well (e.g., SEM photos in Gisler and Meinke). However, a more lasting binding process in the future might prevent the loss of pages already evident in my copy.

In summary, Kaye et al. effectively deliver what is promised in the title and foreword ó a summary of ongoing research, both applied and basic, that is tied to conserving native plant biodiversity. Thus, although Oregon and Pacific coast elements receive special attention, scientists and conservation managers in all regions will truly appreciate the breadth of current topics discussed within the book's covers. I'm certainly glad to have a copy on my bookshelf! - Susan R. Kephart, Department of Biology, Willamette University, Salem, OR 97301


Rare or Threatened Australian Plants. Briggs, J.D., and J. H. Leigh. 1996. ISBN 0-643-05798-6 (paper US$44.95 ) 466pp. CSIRO Publishing, P.O. Box 1139 (150 Oxford St.), Collingwood, Victoria 3066, Australia - Any non-Australian botanist who has visited Australia has been fascinated and enthralled by the largely endemic and unusual sclerophyllous flora, which is perhaps best epitomized by the genera of Eucalyptus and phyllodinous Acacia (Barlow 1981). Although this large tome perhaps fails to capture such interest for those unfamiliar with this flora, it is nevertheless an important contribution to the conservation of Australia's plants. The book contains the most recent revision of the Rare or Threatened Australian Plant (ROTAP) list which assesses "the conservation status of Australia's flora from a national perspective" and provides the most up to date information compared to other legal lists that are less frequently modified. It documents a total of 5031 taxa which represent about 22.9% of the estimated 22,000 Australian native plants (not including the 91 taxa from the Norfolk, Cocos (Keeling), and Christmas island territories). The magnitude of this task is reflected in the 330 people cited for contributing to the work. Given the enormity of compiling this information, it is not surprising that ecological and biological information is not included (see Cropper (1993) for details about the ecology, monitoring, and conservation of rare Australian plants).

The introduction places this current list in context with previous ROTAP and other compilations. The next section includes significant changes that have been made to list. Most significantly the list now includes subspecies and varieties, which accounts for 25% of the increase in species since the 1988 ROTAP list. The third and fourth sections contain detailed information about the list coding system, which includes taxonomic, geographic distribution, and conservation status information. Taxonomic information is based on the Flora of Australia Project and includes family, genus, species, subspecies or variety, authority, name and locality for subspecies, and whether the taxonomy is doubtful. Conservation codes include distribution category (known from 1 collection only, range <100km or range >100km), conservation status (presumed extinct, endangered, vulnerable, rare, and poorly known, plus an additional code for reserved in at least one population in a National Park or other conservation reserve), and size class of all reserved populations (> or < 1000 plants or not known). Geographic information includes state or territory, region of occupance, whether the taxa is in a reserve, size class of population in reserve, whether it is extinct in that region, and name and type of reserve. Short abstracts of 6 taxa illustrate how the taxonomic, geographic, and conservation codes relate to known information. What I like is that you get an indication of how well and where a species is protected in National Parks and reserves. On the other hand, as the authors point out, it may be presumptuous to equate an occurrence in a reserve with protection.

The list is in three sections, a complete continental list, lists by state, and lists by territory. The first and third lists are in alphabetical order by family, genus, and species and the second by genus and species. Family and genera indices for the continent wide list make it easy to locate genera and respectively summarize, 1) the number of genera and species included and 2) the number of subspecies, varieties, described/undescribed species, total, and doubtful taxa.

The section about conservation statistics is perhaps the most important and interesting because it relates the trends to conservation needs and summarizes what is known about Australian rare plants. Color distribution maps by regions clearly show that southwest Australia and the Cape York Peninsula of Queensland have the lion's share of rare or threatened taxa. 46% of the taxa are from Western Australia. We learn that 199 taxa are only known from their original collection site. Poorly known taxa make up the bulk of the list at 47%, indicating a large number of taxa needing inventory. In addition, of these taxa having at least one population in a reserve (2,738), 74% have no accurate information on population size; however of taxa entirely protected in reserves (258) little more is known about their abundance since 58% lack information. Counteracting this lack of information is the finding that the percentages of taxa that are represented in reserves has increased overall and by state, due to recent surveys and creation of new reserves (sometimes to protect rare plants). Not surprisingly the dominant plant families in Australia (e.g. Myrtaceae, Proteaceae, Mimosaceae, Orchidaceae, Fabaceae) make up the 57% of rare plants. Acacia is the largest rare plant genus. Most species are endemic since only 5.4% of the rare plants occur outside the continent. Chi squared or log linear analysis of some of these distribution tables might have added an interesting statistical feature to this analysis.

The book is impeccably produced. The cover is colorful with three nested species photographs. I found no typographic errors, but did not check the lists. The great separation between the species abstracts and their photographs was disconcerting. A nice feature within the list is occasional light line drawings of a taxa behind the text on the page where it is listed.

If you are from Australia and its island territories and/or are interested in the rare flora of this region, this book is for you. Otherwise it is an important reference book for libraries. The listing details and summary statistics would be useful for courses in comparative plant biogeography and conservation. - Noel B. Pavlovic, Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station, Great Lakes Science Center, U.S.G.S, Biological Resources Division, Porter, Indiana, USA.

Literature cited

Barlow, B. A. 1981.
The Australian flora: its origin and evolution. In: Flora of Australia: Volume 1, Introduction. Ed. A. S. George. Bureau of Flora and Fauna, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra. pp. 25-75.
Cropper, S. C. 1993.
Management of Endangered Plants. CSIRO. 182pp.

Return to: | Table of Contents || Book Reviews Home Page || Next Review