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Release: April 10, 2002

UI Herbarium creates web site database on fragile flora

A new University of Iowa database -- for the first time -- offers information on rare Iowa plants in a format readily accessible to professionals and the general public.

Called the "Iowa Fragile Flora Database" and located at the UI Herbarium web site (http://www.cgrer.uiowa.edu/herbarium), the database provides the extensive and complex listings of Iowa's endangered and threatened plant species in an interactive format. In addition, there is an illustrated discussion with answers to such questions as:

• Why are there rare plants In Iowa?

• How do we know which species occur in Iowa and which are rare?

• What are the criteria for listing plant species in Iowa?

• What should the criteria be?

UI Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Diana Horton says, "So little of Iowa's natural habitats and the organisms that inhabit them have escaped the wholesale habitat destruction and invasion of alien species that have occurred since the time of European settlement. Therefore, the need to protect what little is left is all the more urgent, and the state endangered species lists are the critical tool that make protection possible. However, until now, it has been nearly impossible to evaluate revisions of the endangered and threatened species lists because the information on rare species has been scattered and inaccessible.

"The database and discussion bring it together in a user-friendly format. This represents the first phase of a project to foster interest in Iowa's endangered and threatened species legislation. The second phase, which has just been initiated, will add county distribution maps for each species based on collections' data in the University of Iowa Herbarium and other state herbaria," she says.

The database, which required more than two years to develop and includes information on nearly 800 species, incorporates lists published in the Iowa Administrative Code since 1977, the lists from three unpublished government reports, and an extensive list of candidate species from professional correspondence. The database was developed in collaboration with Steven Bowers, senior systems analyst for the UI's Information Technology Services, Academic Technologies Department.