What is the "value" of a rare, endemic, or endangered plant?

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What is the "value" of a rare, endemic, or endangered plant?

Post by edfrank » Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:06 pm

"What is the "value" of a rare, endemic, or endangered plant? That is not an easy question to answer. As an individual plant it does not have any special quality that makes it "better" than any other plant growing around it. For my part it is a question of biodiversity. When we lose rare plants it lessens the diversity in the world, and in the natural areas. Less diversity limits the ability of the remaining plants to respond and survive a major disruption in climate and other ecological factors. Beyond that, each plant is the favored food of some animal. When a rare plant is lost, one or more rare animals are also lost. Other plants and animal which were dependent on those animals may also be lost." - Arleigh Birchler, February 13, 2013
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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Gary Beluzo
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Re: What is the "value" of a rare, endemic, or endangered pl

Post by Gary Beluzo » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:20 pm

A species may be rare, endemic, or endangered for a variety of reasons. A species may be rare because it is a specialist and occupying a small niche, endemic because a geographic location (e.g. Galapagos Islands) is unique and isolated, or endangered because the environment is changing or the species has come under pressure from another species (e.g. human).

There is inherent value in each species and as humans continue to homogenize the landscape unique habitats and niches are lost and species diversity diminishes..the system has less inertia to change and less resiliency to recover

Gary Beluzo
"..powered in ecological space and evolutionary time.."

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Re: What is the "value" of a rare, endemic, or endangered pl

Post by Don » Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:51 pm

In some ways, the answer is easy, and inappropriately enough captured by the credit card ad, "...it's priceless". Pure economics will say that the last five will be much more valuable than the first five of the last one hundred. Once they are gone, their value drops altogether and they're 'priceless'.
As an object lesson, they've much value.
In Grand Canyon, there is only one threatened and endangered species, the sentry milkvetch (Astragalus chremnophylax var. chremnophylax). I have seen most all of them and know exactly where they are located. At the turn of the century (1903) botanist Marcus E Jones recorded that they were 'common'. How much are the remaining few worth? That's quantifiable, if you look at the resources (read funding for employees, infrastructure, etc.) expended to meet the expectations of the Fish and Game Department's responsibility to ensure continued survival (NEPA or National Environmental Policy Act).
But Gary's right, it's more than dollars and cents...
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
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Re: What is the "value" of a rare, endemic, or endangered pl

Post by Joe » Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:30 am

Wasn't it John J. Audubon, back in the 18th century, who mentioned that he saw so many passenger pigeons that they filled the sky from horizon to horizon for days at a time? All a hunter had to do was point up and shoot. With that many birds, we can only presume the forests were far richer with food- countless large trees producing vast amounts of mast- and this is just an example of how the continent was truly "richer" in what counts- back before the dollar didn't even exist.

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Bart Bouricius
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Re: What is the "value" of a rare, endemic, or endangered pl

Post by Bart Bouricius » Thu Feb 14, 2013 8:24 pm

Again we get down to the sacred versus the profane, that is the aesthetic, emotional if you will spiritual vs the commercial value of a thing, be it an organism or a view. The Scenic Hudson case, which permitted for the first time standing in court, for other than strictly economic injury, ushered in the field of environmental law. This case was expanded in 2009 in the case of Save the Pine Bush v. Common Council of the City of Albany, when persons other than abutters were given standing in court because they would travel to visit an environment with certain prized species in it. So again I find myself railing against the commodification of all things that some narrow minded folks think is necessary in order to get the true market value of the thing in question, thus resolving the comparative quantification in order to choose competing policies. An extreme example of the desire to quantify everything, such that it might be considered as part of the market system, was when the Bureau of Land Management showed, with a Cost Benefit Analysis study that there would be a net benefit in daming the Grand Canyon because, among other things, boaters could get closer to the canyon walls to see them better. This 1966 study compared putting two damns in the Grand Canyon with a false nuclear alternative. There are plenty of economic criticisms of the study which was politically defeated by an outraged public and work by the Sierra Club. Anyway the real question is whether certain things should be valued in other ways than money, as simple as that.

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