Evans Lectures at Save Our Sandhills Meeting
On Thursday, April 30, at 7 p.m., Save Our Sandhills will host guest lecturer Rob Evans, who will speak on the topic "Conserving Imperiled Plants in the Sandhills and Beyond."
The meeting will be held at the Southern Pines Civic Club, at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Ashe Street.
Native plants and wildflowers should not be taken for granted, even if they are abundant in a particular place. Consider that North Carolina is home to over 4,200 different plants. The Sandhills is being tested more than other areas in the state as to loss of open lands. Much open land has succumbed to development, and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and state officials are concerned about how many acres will continue to be consumed. This can change the balance of nature dramatically.
The Sandhills area has been called a region of southeastern biodiversity. Scientists studying longleaf pine forests at Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall have identified almost 1,300 species of flower plants, conifer trees, and ferns, as well as 156 grass species, 100 bird species, 67 mammal species, more than 60 butterfly species, and 86 reptile and amphibian species.
Given that fact, it is important to remember that one species is dependent upon another. When native plants disappear, the insects dependent upon those plants disappear. Ultimately, the food source for birds and other animals is affected.
Rob Evans is an expert in the field of native rare plants and rare plant communities. Responsible for the state's N.C. Plant Conservation Program (PCP) since 2004, he oversees its unique mission of establishing and managing its system of plant preserves which now total 18 sites on over 14,000 acres of land.
Evans helps to develop lists of imperiled plants according to three categories: endangered, threatened, and those of special concern. And in cooperation with botanical gardening specialists in the state, he works to propagate species threatened with extinction.
Evans has worked with NatureServe, developing a classification of ecological systems for the southeastern United States, and he's worked with the Nature Conservancy on several multi-state conservation plans. Evans has also worked for the U.S. Forest Service on the National Forests and National Grasslands in Texas on land and forest management as well as on endangered species. He has a master's degree in plant ecology from Stephen F. Austin University, has coauthored the U.S. National Vegetation Classification system, and has co-authored scientific articles on topics that include fire ecology and carnivorous plants.
A hands-on specialist, Evans actively manages the PCP's numerous preserves. This is often necessary to ensure the future viability of rare plants, even on permanently protected lands. Approximately 75 percent of all listed plant species require a controlled burning regimen to reproduce and thrive. He can often be seen in full fire safety regalia, working to ensure that burns are properly planned and executed by crews of professionally trained foresters. These burns mimic the natural fires from lightning strikes that took place in North Carolina before fire suppression became fashionable. Fire is crucial to ensure North Carolina's rich biodiversity. Often, repeated controlled burns provide wonderful surprises, as leaf litter turns to nutrient-rich ash, seeds germinate, and seedlings are nourished.
The PCP is a program within the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA & CS). It works closely with the N.C. Natural Heritage Program in order to determine which "protected plants" need urgent attention. Since state and federal laws provide almost no legal protection for plants, conservation efforts are a priority in order to preserve unique and irreplaceable native plants for future generations.
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