The Red Butte Garden Conservation Department spends much of its time focused on small and inconspicuous desert plants. Every once in a while, someone asks why. The short answer is biodiversity.
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the number of different species of plants and animals found within a particular region, or ecosystem. The more diverse an ecosystem, meaning the more plants, animals, insects, and bacteria living within it, the healthier it is. A diverse ecosystem has more resources to draw on that allow it to bounce back from disturbances, adapt to long-term changes, and support the communities within it, wild or cultivated.
Why does it matter?
While biodiversity is critical for the sake of the environment in and of itself, there are a number of reasons biodiversity should matter to our species. To focus just on plant diversity: plants provide us with key ingredients and products that feed us, shelter us, keep us healthy, and fuel our economy. To destroy a species, actively or unknowingly, is to destroy its potential for tomorrow and for generations to come.
Read "Why Diversity Matters" from NatureServe.
What are our goals?
We are stewards of the at-risk plants in our region, and protecting them is a key component of Red Butte Garden’s mission. We hope to mitigate threats and preserve genetic information so that rare populations may recover in their native habitats, thereby conserving the diversity of our native flora.
What kind of work do we do?
We conduct research that informs our understanding of regional rare plant populations and the threats they face.
In-situ conservation is work that is done on site, in the area where the plant naturally grows. We collect plant samples and seeds to study later, monitor populations, transplant endangered species out of harm’s way, and re-vegetate with seeds or seedlings in their native habitats.
Ex-situ conservation is work that is done off site, at our garden facility or other facilities around the West. This work involves storing seeds in seed banks to preserve the genetic material, testing seed germination and viability to better understand how to propagate a species, and caring for living specimens that have been propagated or salvaged from project sites.