Clarifying Science Needs for Southeastern Grasslands: The Piedmont, Coastal Plain, and Beyond
Jennifer Cartwright, USGS Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center
Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative
Rua Mordecai, South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint
Grasslands are plant communities that have few or no trees, or have open canopies that allow for the development of a grassy groundcover. Grasslands in the southeastern U.S. support rare plant and animal species and in some cases qualify as global or regional hotspots of biodiversity. Yet the Southeast’s grasslands have been reduced by approximately 90% since European settlement, as the result of agriculture, urbanization, and fire suppression. Today, climate change represents an additional stressor that may pose direct and indirect threats to grassland-related biodiversity. We will discuss results from a region-wide workshop of scientific and conservation professionals exploring the challenges to grassland species conservation in the southeastern U.S., with emphasis on clarifying the research and data needs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state agencies related to Species Status Assessments (SSAs) for imperiled grassland species. We will then focus in on challenges in the Piedmont – a region with one of the greatest declines in grasslands across the entire Southeast.