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AZH announces 2022 Plant Conservation Grant awards

December 27, 2022 10:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Zoo horticulture involves more than enhancing the landscape for its resident animal populations as evidenced by the thousands of dollars used to protect and conserve the natural environment within our zoos and around the world. One of the core values of the Association of Zoological Horticulture (AZH) is conservation of rare plants and plant diversity.  This commitment to plant conservation through the AZH Plant Conservation Grant program began in 1992 and has awarded over $500,000 to projects spanning the country and the globe.

AZH plant conservation grants encourage plant conservation activities and partnerships within and between AZH members, member zoos and member zoo partners.  Grant monies are provided through the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF), AZH member donations, and auction proceeds from annual conferences. The focus for these grants should be plant conservation activities that tie to habitat conservation, biological diversity preservation, germplasm preservation, environmental education. AZH Plant Conservation Grants are awarded for both in-situ and ex-situ plant conservation work.

The Association of Zoological Horticulture is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the advancement of zoo horticulture in zoological parks, gardens, and aquariums. AZH works to highlight the importance of plants within zoos and aquariums, and seeks to support the horticulturists who work in a zoological setting.

2022 AZH Plant Conservation Grant recipients

Working towards safeguarding four endangered species endemic to the Sierra Bermeja region of Puerto Rico,  

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

The project would further safeguard four endangered and endemic species native to the Sierra Bermeja region in southwestern Puerto Rico, in continuation of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s (FTBG) previous work in this area. This project will focus on four species: Aristida chaseae, Aristida portoricensis, Lepidaploa proctorii and Lyonia truncata var. proctorii. All four species are known from six or fewer populations in the wild of which several are threatened by habitat loss through development on unprotected land and competition by invasive species (Flickinger et al. 2022).

Evaluating tree guards and biochar/wood chipping-enriched top dressing to improve survival and growth of young native trees planted in challenging conditions at Parc Ivoloina, Madagascar,

Naples Zoo/Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group with Missouri Botanical Garden

The goal of the project is to provide a science-based evaluation of the impact of tree guards and the
use of biochar/wood chip-enriched top-dressing in promoting the survival and increasing growth rate in of young native Malagasy trees out-planted on impoverished soil in exposed locations in Parc Ivoloina.  More specifically our objective in this project is to compare average (N = 50) 12-month mortality and growth of out-planted seedlings of ten native tree species in each of four treatments: a) tree guard + top dressing; b) tree guard; c) top dressing; and d) control.

Cultivating Cross-border Collaborations towards Conserving Threatened Oaks,

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

The purpose of this grant is to support the conservation of two priority, threatened oaks (Quercus cedrosensis and Quercus dumosa) through cross-border partnerships in southern California and Baja California, Mexico.  We request support to conduct a surveying trip to collect more information for two threatened oaks, Quercus cedrosensis and Q. dumosa, locally rare species, so as to gain a better understanding of the populations’ status in Baja California, build relationships with the local partners, to identify and prioritize collaborations to further conserve the populations, as well as, gather material to conserve the species in ex situ living collections; the seed grown from the ex situ individuals can be used for future restoration efforts.  Additionally, we request support to host a workshop to exchange tools, information and foster new partnerships to work together on the priority actions identified in the conservation action plan, to continue to make progress on conserving the full native range of each of the species, and that we have the tools and resources to share more
broadly to further engage more partners outside of the workshop to leverage further support in this important work.

Enhancing conservation of Piñuelo ( Pelliciera benthamii) to support integrated mangrove ecosystem and
species conservation efforts,

Naples Botanical Garden/Cartagena Botanical Garden

This project aims to expand conservation efforts for Piñuelo (Pelliciera benthamii), a segregated species from Pelliciera rhizophorae (Duke, 2020). Piñuelo is a mangrove plant species restricted to small populations in the Panamanian Pacific and the Colombian Caribbean. P. rhizophorae was listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to isolated populations, reduced range, and decline in habitat quality. We are re-assessing P. benthamii, and its conservation status will most likely change from vulnerable to endangered. This project will build on an existing project targeting the collection and propagation of P. benthamii and supports the recommended conservation action for the species identified by Blanco-Libreros and Ramirez-Ruiz (2021). The project will be initiated at the beginning of 2023 and completed by the end of the same year.

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