Botany and Endangered Plants Program
New Mexico is one of the most biologically diverse states in the U.S., ranking fourth in highest plant diversity (California being first). Over 4,200 plant species have been documented; 235 of which are rare or endangered plant species and over 110 are endemic, meaning they occur nowhere else in the world.
There are eight distinct Ecoregions in New Mexico that promote such a diverse flora. While many plant species are adapted to the hot, dry conditions of the Chihuahuan desert, others can be found growing only on the alpine peaks of the Southern Rockies. Additionally, a small subset of species can be found growing only within wetland or riparian communities that have limited distribution, thus both plants and their habitat are rare. One such example is the unique ciénega; an increasingly rare wetland community of the southwest. Many of these wetlands have been impacted by humans or are in decline as a result of decreasing water tables and other stressors.
The Forestry Division’s Endangered Plant Program has statutory responsibility for the State Endangered Plant Species List. Section 75-6-1 NMSA 1978 directs the Division to establish a program to promote conservation of state endangered plant species; conduct research, inventory, monitoring, and educational activities; ensure habitat for rare species; and investigate all plant species in the state for the purpose of establishing a list of endangered plant species. Botany staff work on a diverse array of conservation projects, including collaborative research and monitoring to inform management; collecting information on population abundance, distribution, habitat requirements, threats, limiting factors, and other biological and ecological data to determine the status of an endangered species to develop conservation measures necessary for species’ survival. The Endangered Plant Program is primarily federally funded through Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act for endangered plant research and management. Other federal grants help provide supplementary funding for additional work on rare species.
Current and past project funding includes:
- Status surveys and reports on sensitive, proposed, candidate and listed species
- Writing recovery plans
- Writing 5-year reviews
- Collaborating on development of rare plant habitat suitability models (HSM)
- Coordinating and carrying-out recovery actions
- Long term population trend monitoring of endangered plants
- Resolving taxonomic questions
- Researching habitat requirements and population demographics
- Rare plant surveys and inventories
- Educational projects