Rare plant on Santa Cruz Island saved by conservation efforts
A rare plant that grows only on Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of Santa Barbara, was on the endangered species list – but not any more. Conservation efforts were a success.
Rare plant scientist Heather Schneider, Ph.D., said California is a hot spot for biodiversity, and especially the Channel Islands.
“We kind of refer to them as a hot spot within a hot spot,” she said.
Schneider leads the rare plant conservation program at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. She said some of the plants found on the Channel Islands, like the Santa Cruz Island Dudleya, live in one location and one location only.
“The Santa Cruz Island Dudleya, dudleya nesiotica, is restricted only to Santa Cruz Island. That’s the only place on earth it occurs,” Schneider said.
The small succulent with white flowers was listed as a threatened species in 1997. Since then, many local scientists including Schneider, have collaborated to save the plant by minimizing threats and restoring the habitat. Those threats included competition from non-native grasses and soil disruption by sheep grazing and feral pigs.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Santa Cruz Island Dudleya is no longer an endangered species.
Schneider said it’s a conservation success story with far reaching benefits.
“If we think of ecosystems as a web of life and everything is connected, oftentimes rare plants play an important role in that web that might be less apparent to the general public, but they often have tight associations with insects and other animals,” she said.
Schneider said scientists will continue to monitor the plant, but the population is currently healthy and self-sustaining.
In addition to the Santa Cruz Island Dudleya, another rare plant on the Channel Islands, island bedstraw, was also removed from the endangered species list this month. Island bedstraw grows on Santa Cruz and San Miguel islands.