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A natural resource condition assessment for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks: Appendix 14: plants of conservation concern

June 1, 2013

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are located in the California Floristic Province, which
has been named one of world‘s hotspots of endemic biodiversity (Myers et al. 2000). The
California Floristic Province is the largest and most important geographic floristic unit in
California and extends from the Klamath Mountains of southwestern Oregon to the northwestern
portion of Baja California (Hickman 1993). The Sierra Nevada, one of six regions that make up
the California Floristic Province, covers nearly 20% of the land in California yet contains over
50% of its flora. Within the Sierra Nevada, the southern Sierra supports more Sierran endemic
and rare plant taxa than the central and northern portions of the region (Shevock 1996). Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI) encompass roughly 20% of the southern Sierra
Nevada region. The parks overlap three floristic subregions (central Sierra Nevada High,
southern Sierra Nevada High, and southern Sierra Nevada Foothills), and border the Great Basin
Floristic Province.

The parks support a rich and diverse vascular flora composed of over 1,560 taxa. Of these, 150
taxa are identified as having special status. The term special status is applied here to include
taxa that are state or federally listed, rare in California, or at risk because they have a limited
distribution. Only one species from these parks is listed under the state or federal Endangered
Species Acts (Carex tompkinsii, Tompkins‘ sedge, is listed as a rare species under the California
Endangered Species Act), and one species is under review for federal endangered listing (Pinus
albicaulis, whitebark pine). However, an absence of threatened and endangered species recognized
by Endangered Species Acts is not equivalent to an absence of species at risk. There are 83 plant
taxa documented as occurring in SEKI that are considered imperiled or vulnerable in the state by the
California Department of Fish and Game‘s California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB
2010a). There are an additional 66 taxa not formally listed by CNDDB that are recognized as
having special status because their distribution is restricted to the Sierra Nevada. Special status
plants are distributed throughout the two parks and inhabit a wide range of environments along the
length of the elevation gradient that characterizes these parks.

Ideally, we would assess the condition (status and trends) of each of the taxa on the SEKI special
status plant list, documenting current population sizes, demographic rates and demographic
trends. We would also hope to quantify the effects of individual stressors on each species based
on existing monitoring and research. However, no data are available for most of the species on
the special status plant list. For those few species (12 herbaceous species and two tree species)
for which we possess some change over time information, the data are not adequate to make a
competent assessment. Note that we have not explored the tree demographic information in any
detail, as is covered in the NRCA Intact Forest/Five Needle Pines and Sequoia chapters. In
general, we are unable to present an ‗integrity‘ metric for special status species in the parks,
since the data to quantify the condition of each species in such a manner is not available.

In contrast, the park does possess substantial data describing biodiversity in the parks. Therefore,
our analysis focuses on describing the distribution and rarity of special status plants within the
parks, with a particular focus on assessing the spatial distribution of species richness. We hope
that such information will prove useful to park managers in determining which areas in the parks
merit the most attention (for example in developing monitoring protocols). We also assess
potential vulnerability of special status species to the stressors chosen by the NRCA working
group, using both park data and available literature.

As a first step, we spent considerable effort updating and refining the criteria for the special
status plant list, as this list defines which taxa are considered in our assessment. Observation data
of these species was then compiled from all known sources in order to provide a comprehensive
view of where special status plants have been documented and, ultimately, to enable the most
informed determinations of areas in the parks that potentially support the highest number of rare
and endemic taxa. These ‗hot spot‘ analyses are presented by geographic region, vegetation type
and elevation.

For these and other analyses presented in this report, we place more focus on summarizing
findings for the herbaceous and shrub special status taxa than on special status trees. The trees
which qualify as special status are the focus of other NRCA chapters, including Giant Sequoia
and Intact Forests/Five-needle Pines. We do, however, present their mapped distributions and
provide overviews of research related to the special status tree taxa in the Stressors section of this

Citation Information

Publication Year 2013
Title A natural resource condition assessment for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks: Appendix 14: plants of conservation concern
Authors Ann Huber, Adrian Das, Rebecca Wenk, Sylvia Haultain
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title Natural Resource Report
Series Number NPS/SEKI/NRR--2013/665.14
Index ID 70125274
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center