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  • How will climate change impact plant life? — New England Wild Flower Society
    reveal insights from The State of the Plants a comprehensive review of the status of plants on the New England landscape The report notes increases and declines in both rare and common species across all six states Dr Farnsworth will identify hotspots of rare plant diversity and discuss factors that foster this diversity Dr Farnsworth will also address the primary ecological and anthropogenic threats to both rare and common species efforts to conserve and manage rare plants and habitats throughout the region and a research agenda to bridge gaps in our knowledge of plant species and ecological communities Finally she ll discuss a framework for protecting the viability of thousands of species that together comprise New England s diverse and vibrant flora Dr David R Foster Director of the Harvard Forest will discuss projections for the future of New England forests developed with perspectives from the past responses of species to climate change following the last Ice Age Although modeling tools can help inform our expectations for how climate change may play out the biggest unknown is our society s willingness and ability to advance conservation Once we identify species and habitats at risk the next step is developing appropriate conservation strategies Dr Dov F Sax Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University and Deputy Director Teaching of The Institute at Brown for Environment and Society points out that we are poorly equipped to determine which of thousands of species are most likely to be impacted by climate change He will describe a new approach using non native and horticultural distributions of plants to forecast risks from climate change Dr Sax will also consider the relative merits of alternative and controversial conservation strategies such as managed relocation Supporting ecosystem resilience may be the key to the survival

    Original URL path: http://backstage.newenglandwild.org/blog/symposium-discusses-the-future-of-plant-life.html (2016-05-01)
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  • So what’s a Liverwort Anyway? — New England Wild Flower Society
    go and constitute the largest division of the plant kingdom the vascular plants or tracheophytes I m going to bet that the first image that came to mind was not the image at right This plant a liverwort belongs to another frequently ignored group of plants the bryophytes The name comes from the supposed resemblance of the thalloid liverwort to a liver wort is Old English for plant These plants are often overlooked because they do not grow as big as the tracheophytes You have probably encountered one type of bryophyte moss Although they are the best known of the Bryophytes the mosses are far from the only plants in this division Two different kinds of plants that are also recognized as belonging to the bryophytes are liverworts and hornworts Bryophytes are ancient Botanists today believe that extant species of liverworts are the direct relatives of the first plants to evolve The oldest liverwort fossils date back 472 million years making them about 100 million years older than the oldest dinosaur fossils Ecologically bryophytes play a vital role in regulating ecosystems Some bryophyte species are among the first to colonize open ground They help break down rock into soil They

    Original URL path: http://backstage.newenglandwild.org/blog/liverwort.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Blue on Blue — New England Wild Flower Society
    sundial lupine Lupinus perennis for the Society s seed bank The distinctive blue purple stalks of lupine found in the sandy and gravelly soil of fields roadsides railroads and human disturbed habitats are a familiar sight in New England Many roadside populations however are actually specimens of a western cultivar Lupinus polyphullus which is also blue Unfortunately the native species is vulnerable in its home range it is no longer found in Maine and considered a species of concern by botanists in Massachusetts and Rhode Island The lupine s vulnerability directly affects other species in particular the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly whose larva feed exclusively on the plant Sundial lupine is part of a very limited group of host plants that supports the Frosted Elfin butterfly Callophrys irus and also supports pollinators including bumble bees Distinguishing a native lupine from its western cousin can be tricky The most obvious difference between the two is size The native plant is smaller with five to eleven leaflets that are 2 6 cm long and floral stocks racemes ranging from 10 20 cm tall The blue lupine sports eight to seventeen leaflets that are 7 5 13 cm long its floral stocks

    Original URL path: http://backstage.newenglandwild.org/blog/sundial-lupine.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Biodiversity of Plants Is a Good Thing…Even When They’re Dead — New England Wild Flower Society
    nitrogen and many other elements in ecosystems and that a more diverse dead layer cycles these substances faster This finding has big implications for the functioning of healthy ecosystems and the ability of plant assemblages to sequester and cycle carbon or release it to the atmosphere These new data come from a recent global study of decomposition processes in forests and streamsides at ten sites from the subarctic to the tropics the first of its kind I Tanya Handa and 17 colleagues from Europe and Canada collaborated on the clever experiments At each site the biologists set up plots in which they varied the composition of the leaf litter of four different common species of tree or shrub Here in New England we would recognize several of the species they tested alder Alnus incana mountain ash Sorbus aucuparia gray willow Salix cinerea and mountain cranberry Vaccinium vitis idaea among them Using all possible combinations of one to four species this involved a whopping 2 250 plots Thus they could directly test the effects of increasing the diversity of leaf litter on decomposition rates They found that more diverse mixtures of plants in the litter decomposed faster releasing nitrogen and carbon in forms that were quickly recycled in the ecosystems and transferred among different soil layers What makes the experiments even more compelling is that the researchers also manipulated the diversity of decomposers inside each plot using different mesh sizes to restrict some plots to a few small bodied creatures like nematodes or to allow communities of large bodied creatures such as worms and sow bugs to flourish They found that even independent of plant diversity more diverse suites of decomposers processed carbon and nitrogen more quickly When both plant and animal diversities were high the efficiency of decomposition was at

    Original URL path: http://backstage.newenglandwild.org/blog/biodiversity-of-plants-is-a-good-thing-even-when-they2019re-dead.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Meet the Green Mountain Quillwort — New England Wild Flower Society
    a taxonomically difficult group that few people study Just recently for example while surveying a high elevation pond in Vermont Michael Rosenthal an amateur botanist from Vermont discovered the Green Mountain quillwort Isoetes viridimontana an aquatic relative of clubmosses that is new to science As reported in American Fern Journal the Green Mountain quillwort is special for a number of reasons Perhaps most interesting to local botanists is the fact it is currently known from only one location in the world which makes it a high priority for conservation efforts Surveys to locate additional populations will be important but the aquatic habit and difficulty of identifying quillworts which are primarily identified by the size and ornamentation of minute spores that require at least 40 magnification for viewing will hinder field surveys The Green Mountain quillwort is also special in that it is a diploid species it has only two sets of chromosomes while many northeastern quillworts have multiple sets of chromosomes This suggests that the Green Mountain quillwort may have had a role in forming other species through hybridization providing insights into the evolution of this group of plants The discovery and publication of the Green Mountain quillwort is a

    Original URL path: http://backstage.newenglandwild.org/blog/say-hello-to-the-green-mountain-quillwort.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Mangroves on the March — New England Wild Flower Society
    my neighbor asks Mangroves I say Mangoes I love mangoes is the effusive reply And I explain that mangroves are not the tasty tropical fruit but rather the trees that are specially adapted to grow along tropical coastlines Whereas much of New England s coastline is clad in verdant salt marshes 75 percent of tropical coasts are cloaked in dense tangled forests Mangrove is the generic term for the 70 or so species of trees that inhabit these challenging habitats Mangrove forests are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth and provide essential coastal protection and nurseries for economically important fish among many other useful services Worldwide mangroves are being felled at a rate that exceeds that of tropical rainforests to make way for artificial beaches resorts ports and shrimp farms Many species produce very tough tannin rich wood that makes excellent charcoal building material and even rayon But while mangrove forests are disappearing in their native lands new mangrove forests are springing up rapidly on the southern shores of the U S New research by biologists at the Smithsonian Institution is charting the northward march of mangroves which are responding to a warming climate Normally the northern limit of the four species of North American mangroves is set by hard winter frosts mangroves are very sensitive to cold However Dr Kyle Cavanaugh and colleagues have studied 28 years of satellite data and have mapped an unmistakable expansion of red black and white mangroves along the Florida coast In the past 8 years alone these species have moved up to 42 miles north and have gained more than 3 000 acres of territory since 1984 Climate change may be reducing the frequency of extreme cold events Mangroves are just the latest harbingers of the dramatic warming affecting all our ecosystems

    Original URL path: http://backstage.newenglandwild.org/blog/mangroves-on-the-march.html (2016-05-01)
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  • More Bad News about Neonics — New England Wild Flower Society
    used to prevent damage from insects on a variety of agricultural and horticultural crops They act systemically meaning treated plants absorb the chemical and become toxic to any insects that feed on them including beneficial insects who feed on infected pollen According to research conducted by scientists at the U S Geological Survey and reported on the Common Dreams website this dangerous class of pesticides widely suspected as a contributing factor in honeybee colony collapse disorder has been found in up to 75 percent of surface streams and waterways throughout an area of corn and soybean production in the Midwest Neonics are used frequently in the nursery and greenhouse industry to prevent insect damage on ornamental plants Another report published by Friends of Earth demonstrated that as many as 51 percent of the bee friendly plants in garden centers across the U S and Canada contained neonics Unfortunately gardeners planting pollinator gardens with treated plants are in fact causing more harm than good killing the very insects they intend to support Because these pesticides are meant to protect crops through at least one entire growing season they are long lasting In fact studies have revealed that neonics can remain in

    Original URL path: http://backstage.newenglandwild.org/blog/more-bad-news-about-neonics.html (2016-05-01)
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  • Controlling winter moth — New England Wild Flower Society
    England for decades established in southern parts of New England for decades and in Massachusetts for the last ten years The larvae feed on a range of host plants including oak serviceberry and birch and can completely defoliate affected trees Multiple consecutive years of winter moth damage can kill the trees and currently available controls are either unproven or toxic Researchers are working on developing an effective biological control For the past two years New England Wild Flower Society has partnered with University of Massachusetts entomologist Joe Elkinton to introduce Cyzenis albicans a tachinid fly that parasitizes winter moth larvae at Garden in the Woods This work is part of the university s effort to establish this biological control across New England C albicans is entirely host specific meaning it does not parasitize anything but winter moth The fly which has been successfully controlling winter moth populations in Nova Scotia and British Columbia since the 1950s and 1960s lays its eggs on the buds and twigs of trees that may play host to winter moth caterpillars As the caterpillars feed they also ingest the fly eggs which hatch inside the caterpillar s digestive tract The fly larvae then colonize the

    Original URL path: http://backstage.newenglandwild.org/blog/controlling-winter-moth.html (2016-05-01)
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