Yadkin river goldenrod conserved
As part of a broad effort to conserve rare plants and animals before they need to be placed on the endangered species list, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and ALCOA Power Generating Inc. entered into an agreement to help protect one of the nation’s rarest plants.
Discovery, loss, rediscovery
Scientist John Small originally described the Yadkin River goldenrod from the Narrows Canyon and Falls area of the Yadkin River in 1894. Following his discovery, Narrows and Falls dams were constructed on the Yadkin River in the early 20th century. Today these dams are operated by APGI.
For several decades, there was no mention of Yadkin River goldenrod in the available literature, then in 1994 the plant was independently rediscovered by two North Carolina state botanists along the shorelines of Falls Reservoir and the tailwaters of Narrows Reservoir during surveys of the area examined by John Small in 1894. Subsequent surveys documented one significant population of approximately 2,000 to 5,000 flowering plants along the shorelines of Falls Reservoir adjacent to the outflow of Narrows Reservoir. Several smaller sub-populations exist downstream along the base of Falls Dam and the western shoreline of Lake Tillery at Morrow Mountain State Park. These sites are the only known locations of this plant.
About the Yadkin River goldenrod
Yadkin River goldenrod occurs only within eight to ten meters of the Yadkin Rivershoreline, growing in crevices of bedrock outcrops and other barren, stream-side areas that are periodically flooded.
Its short, dense rootstock grows in rock crevices sprouting rosettes and stems which can grow up to one meter tall. Flowering occurs during late August and September and seeds begin to mature by the end of October. Seeds germinate in the rock crevices during December.
Currently, there is only one known viable, self-sustaining population of Yadkin River goldenrod in the world – on the edge of Falls Reservoir near the base of the Narrows Dam, Stanly and Montgomery counties, North Carolina. Searches have also turned up several scattered plants further downstream.
In 1995 the Service reviewed the plant’s status and decided not to place it on the Federal endangered species list. This was based on the determination that the existing population below Narrows Dam appeared healthy with no immediate habitat threats. In recent years (2004 – 2005), state and federal biologists informally surveyed plant locations and monitored the status of these plants. These surveys uncovered the presence of invasive plants, as well as recreational use - both of which may be impacting Yadkin River goldenrod populations.
Due to the plant’s rarity and the increasing threats, in May, 2005 the Service declared the goldenrod a candidate for the Federal endangered species list, meaning there was enough information about biological vulnerability and threats to place it on the list.
The entire current and historical distribution of Yadkin River goldenrodis confined to a 2.5-mile segment of the Yadkin River in where flow is controlled by two hydroelectric projects. The construction of the Narrows Dam in 1917, the Falls Dam in 1919, and Lake Tillery in 1928 altered flow regimes, flooded some habitat, and possibly reduced available habitat. All currently occupied habitat is threatened by non-native invasive plants including Mimosa, a non-native tree that also grows in rock crevices. Bush honeysuckle, privet, and Japanese honeysuckle also occur nearby in dense understory colonies and could pose similar threats. The goldenrod’s habitat is also threatened by disturbance and trampling on the part of anglers and boaters walking the shoreline, often attracted to the seasonal fisheries within tailwater areas of Narrows and Falls Dams.
The Candidate Conservation Agreement
Recognizing that conserving plants and animals before they require placement on the Federal endangered species list provides more flexibility and is more cost-effective, the Service is making a push to work with partners to protect at-risk plants and animals. One of the main tools for this effort is Candidate Conservation Agreements, a voluntary agreement in which the Service works with partners to alleviate the threats facing an at-risk plant or animal. The Candidate Conservation Agreement signed by the Service and APGI defines a number of steps each will take to protect the goldenrod:
- *APGI will annually control invasive exotic plants, including Mimosa, bush honeysuckle, privet, and Japanese honeysuckle.
- *APGI will maintain signs below Narrows Dam to discourage recreationists from entering the tailwaters area and trampling the plant.
- *APGI, its contractors, the Service, and N.C. Plant Conservation Program, will conduct annual monitoring of the plant.
- *The Service and Plant Conservation Program will continue exploring opportunities to harvest and spread seed to suitable habitat in and near the existing population.