What's New for the WNHP
WA Rare Plant Field Guide update
The WA Rare Plant Field Guide has been updated with funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The initial online version consisted of links to individual species treatments in the form of PDFs, which were a challenge to update. Our newest version is based on a platform, created by the Montana Natural Heritage Program, which is easily edited and allows us to present up-to-date information. The guide now includes treatments for 371 vascular plants, 6 bryophytes, and 1 lichen.
Updated versions of the WA Vascular Plant Species of Special Concern List and the Vascular Review Group 1 and 2 List
An updated version of the WA Natural Heritage Program state list of vascular plant species of conservation concern is now available on the Species Lists page. The 2021 list includes revised information on the state status and distribution of 371 Endangered, Threatened, and Sensitive plant species in Washington. For the first time, the list also includes information on ecological systems (vegetation types) where these species are known to occur. The companion list of review species (plant taxa being considered for future designation as state Endangered, Threatened, or Sensitive) has also been revised.
Report on the conservation status of whitebark pine in Washington
Whitebark pine (Pinus abicaulis) is a widespread tree species found mostly at alpine treeline or upper subalpine forests in the higher mountains of northwestern North America, from British Columbia and Alberta south to California, Nevada, and Wyoming. In Washington, it occurs in the Olympic and Cascades ranges and higher peaks of the Okanogan Plateau and Rocky Mountains in the northeast corner of the state. Across its range, whitebark pine has declined by more than 50% due to mortality from introduced white pine blister rust, outbreaks of mountain pine beetles, increased temperatures and decreased snowpack due to climate change, and increased wildfire. In December, 2020, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed listing whitebark pine as a Threatened species under the US Endangered Species Act.
As part of a Section 6 agreement between USFWS and the Washington Natural Heritage Program (WNHP), we recently completed a report on the conservation status of whitebark pine in Washington using ranking procedures developed by NatureServe (the umbrella network of natural heritage programs). The report includes a potential habitat model derived from US Forest Service, WA Department of Natural Resources, and National Park Service vegetation plots and various environmental predictor variables (geology & soils, topography, climate). We used the model to identify 10 primary population centers (potential element occurrences) of whitebark pine in Washington and to extrapolate population numbers and area of occupancy. Presence and absence data used to construct the model are housed in WNHP’s GIS-based observation database. Whitebark pine is now listed as a state Sensitive plant species in Washington (with rank of G3G4/S3). The full report can be found here.
Crowberry Bog research recently published
Our Crowberry Bog research was recently published in the journal Ecohydrology. Our article “Ecohydrological characteristics of a newly identified coastal raised bog on the western Olympic Peninsula, Washington State, USA” can be accessed here.
Revised vegetation classification for Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Parks
Tynan Ramm-Granberg and Joe Rocchio recently published a revised vegetation classification for Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Parks as part of a long-term partnership with the National Park Service (NPS). The classification draws on over 10 years of vegetation mapping data collected by NPS field crews, as well as decades of regional classification efforts by ecologists at WNHP, the US Forest Service, and elsewhere. Analyses provided support for most of the provisional plant associations in Crawford et al. (2009), while also revealing previously undescribed vegetation types that were not represented in the United States National Vegetation Classification (USNVC). Both provisional and undescribed types have since been submitted to the USNVC by WNHP staff through a peer-reviewed process. In addition to the summary report, revised keys and descriptions, environmental data, and synoptic/constancy tables are available.
Updates to the field manuals for applying rapid Ecological Integrity Assessments
Joe Rocchio and Tynan Ramm-Granberg recently published updated manuals for conducting Ecological Integrity Assessments, incorporating revisions from 5+ field seasons of vetting in upland and wetland ecosystems across Washington. These manuals provide a standardized method for rapidly assessing ecosystem condition across the diverse landscapes of our state. Methods and metrics were developed in collaboration with NatureServe and funded by U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10 Wetland Development grants, along with support from Columbia Land Trust and the Washington Department of Natural Resources. The EIA manuals are available for download here.
47 additional Climate Change Vulnerability Index reports
WNHP botanist Walter Fertig recently completed an assessment of 47 vascular plant species identified as state endangered, threatened, or sensitive using the Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) developed by NatureServe. The CCVI is a standardized tool for ranking the vulnerability of plant or animal species to projected climate change based on their inherent sensitivity and capacity to adapt to shifting temperature and precipitation patterns. Each CCVI takes into account 29 indicators related to habitat specificity, dispersal ability, competition, pollination biology, and genetic diversity. The CCVI scores can be used to identify and prioritize species that are most are risk of extirpation due to climate change and help resource managers develop adaptation and mitigation strategies. The report was funded by the US Forest Service Region 6. You can read the full report here. The individual CCVIs can be accessed from the table on our Assessing Species Vulnerability page.