The Role of Native Plant Seed Collectors and Growers in Protecting Floral Diversity
by David N. Morris
A thesis presented to the University of Waterloo in fulfillment of the thesis requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geography Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 2010. Supervisor: Prof. Stephen D. Murphy.
"...The planting of native species is a common strategy for the conservation of biodiversity ...there has been very little research done about the diversity within plantings by non-state actors. This research was undertaken to address this knowledge gap by studying the provenances of planted rare species and the activities of those who collect and grow these plants. This research was undertaken in the Carolinian zone of southern Ontario, a region with a large number of rare plant species and a large human population."
Southern Ontario stewards, gardeners and seed collectors can find practical and ethical advice here:
1. The Society For Ecological Restoration - Ontario Chapter updated their Growers Guidelines and Buyers Guidelines w/in the past year.
(BTW: SERO also widely publicized these guidelines to their partners and across academic, private, public and enthusiast newsletters. They also inventoried commercial native plant growers across the province -- & not just those who sell restoration quality plants-- and then sent each one of them these guidelines, along with an invitation to contact SERO for further information or assistance. Thank Megan and the Steve's! Not bad for an entirely volunteer effort. Did I mention SERO could use some volunteers, Board Members, and someone w/ desktop publishing skills for the new guide? It's a rare opportunity really: the current active members have so much experience they're a fascinating privilege to volunteer alongside).
2. Forest Gene Conservation Association. The FGCA site answers a lot of questions about how to ethically seed collect and purchase our native woodies from a ecological literate, biodiversity & Species-at-Risk conservation perspective. Also, along w/ partner organizations, they've delivered several publicly accessible "Certified Seed Collector" workshops in the past few years throughout south, central and eastern Ontario.
But I had to get past my initial ignorance. While it's easy to find lists of Ontario's and its Ecoregions Species-at-Risk, it's very difficult for most people to access local conservation "L ranks" for plant species-at-risk. I've thought about this last point often, and I still don't understand why our local Conservation Authorities don't make those L ranks publicly accessible. I don't see what risks it would pose. But I do see the benefits.
Also, even among some of the better non-profits orgs who buy, plant, grow and sell natives, most aren't even aware that several popular native plant species were added to the Ontario Endangered Species Act w/in the past couple of years, although Graham Buck (Nith River Native Plant & Seeds owner and OMNR staff) did provide public workshops. And so I still see these species commonly collected, sold and purchased, by folks who aren't even aware of the status of these species, let alone the required permits for exemption from our provincial SAR legislation (e.g. for growers who use these seeds to supply eco-restoration and conservation practitioners). In those cases, I believe I have better luck by starting up a conversation about it and then following up by sending folks information (hey, most of us are ecological illiterate and trying to learn) than I would if I tried to play some imaginary hard-headed 'plant nazi' (Do you know I've never met one? I don't think they actually exist. I think it's a mythical derisive term created by people who are trying to appease their own conscience and insecurities). But make no mistake, I want our Species-at-Risk to survive in their habitats for another generation, and a few more after that.