Conservation of the Biota of Extreme Geologies

Habitats on extreme geologies, from natural outcroppings of serpentine rocks to barrens resulting from anthropogenic activity, harbor unique species assemblages. Unfortunately, ever-expanding agriculture and forestry, mining activity, and urbanization have drastically affected the biota of many areas with unusual geologies. Plants associated with heavy-metal-rich geologies (i.e., metallo-phytes) are not merely biological novelties: they are the optimal choice for the restoration of metal-contaminated sites across the world. Phytoremediation is a growing field that uses metal-hyperaccumulating plants in the remediation of metal contaminated sites. The raw material for such endeavors comes from species found on extreme geologies such as serpentine outcrops, pointing to an immediate need for the conservation and detailed study of these habitats. Fortunately, recent years have seen the declaration ofseveral preserves, set aside primarily due to their unique edaphic habitats and associated biota. Although they are spotty in their distribution and inadequate in number on a global scale, several preserves in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, in the Province of Quebec in eastern Canada, and in New Zealand and South Africa, have led the way in raising awareness of the immediate need for the conservation of these unique biotas. There has also been an urgent plea from those associated with research on metallophytes, advocating the prioritization of future research needs for the conservation of metallophyte diversity as well as the sustainable uses of metallophyte species in restoration and remediation of contaminated sites worldwide.

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