Conservation Biology

Many grassland species are in decline. Here are some examples of ongoing projects to study and hopefully improve the status of rare species populations.

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Tennessee yellow-eyed grass

Graduate research associate, Cooper Breeden, is currently studying Tennessee Yellow-Eyed Grass (Xyris tennesseensis), a species of open grass- / sedge-dominated wet grasslands known as fens. These tiny grasslands occur on strong side-slopes in ravines and are surrounded by dry, oak-hickory woodlands and forests. The federally-endangered Tennessee yellow-eyed grass has been in decline for more than 10 years. Cooper is investigating what role fire suppression and the closure of surrounding open, grassy woodlands to closed-canopied forests has had on the ecology of this rare species.

whorled sunflower

The whorled sunflower (Helianthus verticillatus) is a federally endangered species known from just a handful of sites in west Tennessee, northeast Alabama, and northwest Georgia. In Tennessee, the few known populations are found along the edges of cotton fields, in roadside ditches, or on railroad banks. These edge habitats are all that remain of the former prairies of west Tennessee that have not disappeared. SGI, in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is pursuing opportunities to recreate west Tennessee prairies to provide suitable habitat to establish new populations of whorled sunflower.