Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Botany A to Z: Eriogonum

by Karin Decker
is for Eriogonum

Eriogonums are buckwheats, members of the Polygonaceae or knotweed family. The cultivated buckwheat that we use for cereal, pancake flour, noodles, etc. is in this family, but is not the same genus as our wild buckwheats.

Our wild buckwheats are found from the plains to the alpine, in all sorts of habitats. Like many rare plants, some of the rarest species seem to specialize on unusual soils. Eriogonum brandegeei especially likes the Dry Union Formation, which has a high proportion of bentonite clay.

The Dry Union Formation in the foreground - home of Eriogonum brandegeei. Fertile loam it isn't, but the view is fantastic.

Both the endangered Eriogonum pelinophilum (clayloving buckwheat) and the strange-looking E. inflatum thrive on the Mancos Shale, another of those grayish-brown, turns-to-concrete-on-your-boots-when-wet soils that rare species seem to love.

E. pelinophilum habitat. Makes you feel a little parched, doesn't it?

E. pelinophilum thriving on the Mancos Shale in the bright sunshine.

E. inflatum. A stand of these strange plants looks like an alien invasion.

Colorado is home to about 50 species or varieties of Eriogonum – CNHP tracks 16 species, and three of them are endemic to the state:

Documented locations of rare Eriogonum species in Colorado. Endemic species are colored and labeled, non-endemic are gray.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

RPCI wins 2011 Recovery Champion Award

CNHP Botanist Susan Spackman Panjabi. Photo courtesy of USFWS. Source.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Tuesday that CNHP Botanist Susan Spackman Panjabi will receive a 2011 Partners-in-Mission Recovery Champion award for conserving endangered and threatened Colorado plants as a member of the Colorado Rare Plants Conservation Initiative (RPCI).

Members of RPCI come from dozens of different organizations and the award is intended for all members, but Susan is one of four people to receive honorary plaques to signify the team's collective conservation accomplishments. The other three are Betsy Neely of The Nature Conservancy, Brian Kurzel of the Colorado Natural Areas Program, and Jenny Neale of the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Recovery Champions are U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and their partners whose work is advancing the recovery of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals. A total of 56 teams and nine individuals were honored as 2011 Recovery Champions for work to conserve species ranging from the polar bear in Alaska, rare plants in Colorado, and the Appalachian elktoe mussel and spotfin chub in North Carolina.

Congratulations to all RPCI members and way to go, Susan!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Job Opening: Weed Mapping Technicians

We have seasonal job openings for up to 6 experienced field mapping technicians to map noxious weed species at the U.S. Air Force Academy and Farish Recreation Area in El Paso County, Colorado.

This position requires field botany and basic GIS skills. The successful candidates will be able to use dichotomous keys or field guides to correctly identify weed species, and have the necessary technical skills to use GPS and ESRI’s ArcPad and ArcGIS software to accurately map and attribute infestations. Field work will be performed independently, and you must provide your own transportation daily to the work location. A computer station will be provided at the Air Force Academy for daily data download and processing.

Work duration will be approximately from April through September, 2012. First consideration of applicants will begin April 2, 2012. Applications will be accepted until all positions are filled. For more information on the position and how to apply, see the full announcement on our Employment and Volunteering page.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Job Opening: Zoology Field Technicians

We have seasonal job openings for up to 12 Zoology Field Technicians to survey for mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and invertebrates throughout Colorado.

Potential projects include:
  • General inventory for rare animals in various locations throughout Colorado 
  • Inventory of rare animals on Colorado State Land Board Stewardship Trust Lands throughout Colorado 
  • Preble’s meadow jumping mouse monitoring in central Colorado
  • Boreal toad survey and breeding site monitoring in the central mountains
  • Amphibian surveys in the central and northern mountains 
  • Rare mammal surveys (including bats, shrews and other small mammals) in the central and northern mountains 
These positions will require extensive travel and long days in the field. Be prepared to camp using your own equipment, although occasional nights in motels or rented houses within project areas may also be provided. Dates for these positions will be approximately from May 1, 2012 through October 31, 2012 and will vary depending upon project.

First consideration of applicants will begin March 22, 2012. Applications will be accepted for future consideration through October 31, 2012. For more information on the position and how to apply, see the full announcement on our Employment and Volunteering page.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Colorado Wetland Mapping - Then and Now

by Gabrielle Smith, CNHP Wetland Mapping and GIS Specialist

In the 1970’s the US Fish and Wildlife Service started a wetland mapping program called the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) , with the goal of mapping the entire country’s wetland resource. Using the Cowardin system of classification, most of the country was mapped from approximately 1975 to 1985 by people looking at aerial photos through stereoscopes and drawing the wetland outlines with markers on sheets of transparent plastic. This original mapping was at resolutions ranging from 1:24,000 to 1:50,000. Over the course of the following decades, individual states have scanned these data into image files that can be viewed on a computer screen, and many have produced updated data building upon the same basic methodology. However, only recently has true digital wetland mapping really taken off.

CNHP first began working on statewide wetland data in 2008, in partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). At that time, there was very little digital mapping available:

All of the data represented by blue in the above map were scanned images – useful for site-specific exploration, but not usable for analysis. CNHP and CPW have worked with a variety of partners (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, local governments, and others) to digitize and update the 1970’s era scans and increase Colorado’s capacity to make informed decisions regarding wetlands. Now, due largely to CNHP and CPW's efforts, the statewide wetland mapping status map for 2012 looks like this:

Making informed decisions about Colorado’s wetlands has critical implications for Colorado’s biodiversity: while it is estimated that only about 2% of the land area of Colorado is wetland, that 2% of the state supports over 40 vertebrate species of concern:

Species of concern in relation to habitat prevalence.

Modern Geographic Information Systems (GIS) allow wetland mappers to improve upon the original NWI data. By using a variety of data sources and improved resolution National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) true color and infrared aerial photos, wetland mappers can delineate wetlands at much finer resolutions and higher ground-verifiable accuracy. Wetlands mapped to the 2009 time period are typically mapped at 1:3,000 to 1:10,000 resolutions.

The following images show infrared / true color examples of some Colorado wetlands in Park County.

Beaver Pond Complex at high altitudes, with ponds surrounded by saturated shrubs.

Two fens: PEMB stands for Palustrine Emergent Saturated wetland.

Alkaline playas: these wetlands are ephemeral and may go several years without a flood event. PUSCh stands for Palustrine Unconsolidated Shore Seasonally Flooded Impounded.

Monday, March 5, 2012

New report: Climate change vulnerability assessment of the Gunnison Basin

A new report is available on our Documents and Reports page. The Gunnison Basin climate change vulnerability assessment report was a joint effort between the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The project was done for the Gunnison Climate Working Group, a partnership of public and private organizations working to build the resilience of species and ecosystems so that they continue to provide benefits to people of the Gunnison Basin.

The project identified which species and ecosystems of the Gunnison Basin, Colorado, are likely to be most at risk to projected climatic changes and why they are likely to be vulnerable. The report is intended to help natural resource managers set priorities for conservation, develop effective adaptation strategies, and build resilience in the face of climate change.