NTBG is a major partner in the effort formerly known as the Genetic Safety Net program, now called the Plant Extinction Prevention Program (PEP), which targets the rarest plants in Hawai‘i, those with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild. With only 0.2 percent of the U.S. landmass, Hawai‘i is home to 42 percent of the plant species listed as endangered or threatened. Nearly half of the Hawaiian flora is considered threatened at some level. Of the flora that is rare and threatened, approximately 180 species have fewer than 50 remaining individuals in the wild.* Unless we preserve genetic material for propagation from these species now, many will be extinct before we can protect and restore habitats for their long-term recovery.
The objective of PEP is to secure seeds and/or cuttings (propagules) of the rarest and most critically endangered native species. Surveying, monitoring, and collecting material for propagation from populations of PEP species are the primary activities mandated by this program. The process that begins with seed collection culminates in the repatriation of plants into natural areas via reintroduction and augmentation.
Collecting is the first crucial step in the cycle of NTBG’s endangered plant conservation strategy for these plants. It is especially important when collecting PEP species to locate robust genetic samples of populations so that viable plant material can be preserved in NTBG living plant collections and/or through long-term seed storage in order to maximize their potential for future use in our restoration efforts. To ensure accurate accession records, especially necessary for future restoration work, collection of highly accurate GPS location data for individual plants and populations is essential, as is creation of high-quality species distribution and survey maps. Information collected on these plants also contributes to NTBG’s ongoing efforts to assist Federal and State agencies in evaluating the status of Listed and Candidate species under the Endangered Species Act.
Plants propagated and grown from the valuable seeds and cuttings collected through the PEP program are established ex situ in NTBG gardens, as well as in situ in native plant restoration sites -- in Limahuli Preserve and in the Lāwa‘i Valley on Kaua‘i, at Kahanu Garden on Maui, and in the Ka‘upulehu Preserve on Hawai‘i Island. Landowners and government agencies that are willing to implement plant restoration programs on their properties may also benefit from PEP collecting, as NTBG is part of an expanding network of collaborators to whom we provide native plant materials as well as guidance on husbandry techniques and regulatory requirements.
*Data as of August 2006