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Climate Impacts on Rare-plant Biodiversity in the Southeastern U.S.

Image Credit: Brittany Salmons

Project Information

Principal Investigator: Jennifer Cartwright, USGS | Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center
Proposed Project Completion Date: February 2024
Implements Science Plan Theme: Impacts
Co-Investigator: Katherine Smith, USGS | Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center

Paul R. Armsworth – University of Tennessee
Emily Coffey – Southeastern Plant Conservation Alliance, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Wesley Knapp – Nature Serve
Sarah Norris – Southeastern Plant Conservation Alliance, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Carrie Radcliffe – Southeastern Plant Conservation Alliance, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Amanda Treher Eberly – Nature Serve
Alan Weakley – University of North Carolina Chapel Hill


The southeastern U.S. is home to many rare plant species, some at risk of extinction. A new list will identify the top plant Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) across the region. This list may help southeastern states as they update their State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs), especially for states that are including plants in SGCN lists for the first time. This project will build off the list by adding information for each species about any previously conducted climate-vulnerability assessments. It will also identify the ecosystems that host the greatest numbers of rare plant species on the list (biodiversity hotspots for rare plants in the Southeast). For a subset of these ecosystems, this project will also produce climate-vulnerability summaries in the form of figures and text to present and interpret climate-change projections, along with potential impacts to ecosystems. Collectively, this information will help provide information that can support efforts to conserve as many rare plants as possible, helping to preserve an important part of the natural heritage of the Southeast.

The goal of the proposed project is to provide rapid, preliminary summaries of climate impacts information for a subset of R-SGCN plants and their habitats. This information is needed by SWAP coordinators and authors of SWAP revisions to meet their objective of using best-available science to support the evaluation and conservation of SGCN. Secondarily, this information may help inform SSAs that are conducted by USFWS for rare, threatened, and endangered plant species.

View an introduction of the project: