Monday, March 18th, 2013 | Author:



Do the words Aeschynomene Virginica mean anything to you? How about Sensitive Joint- Vetech?  They may not mean anything in the future, other than another history item to reflect upon, due to the fact that it is a plant that is going extinct.  The SJV is a federally threatened plant.  I learned of this plant from a talk by Alan B. Griffith, who is studying these plants.  Something to always keep in mind is that extinctions are perfectly normal events, and in fact there have been 5 major mass extinction events recorded in geologic history.

Professor Griffith shared with us the ideas of zero extinction vs. conservation triage.  Zero extinction idea is to halt the extinction of all endangered species, and  conservation triage is basically picking and choosing which ones would be best to save.

Getting back to the SJV he discussed with us,  this plant lives in very specific places and isn’t considered to be a “fighter”.  The world distribution of it is extremely limited to a few tates in the U.S. Found at the edge of Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and New jersey, this endangered plant is finding even less homes, due partially to itself and human interaction. The SJV lives in freshwater tidal wetland, can disappear for a couple years but reappear again, unless another competition plants takes its place or humans built structures where they could grow.  When we transform the land, we take away areas for plants and animals to live.  This particular plant does not adapt.  The seeds are pods, and can float, which is thought of as being the way they distribute themselves.  Most of the seeds however in his experiments fell withing a half meter of the main plant.

Most maps show the plant in Pennyslvania, however in discussion we learned it is not there.

Most maps show the plant in Pennyslvania, however in discussion we learned it is not there.

There are multitudes of questions that can be asked in dealing with the extinction of plants and animals, and some of the main ones are ” how do we put a value on a species to help save it?”, ” is it going extinct on its own, or because of human interferrance?”, How can we stop a species from going extinct?.”

For me, there was no easy answer, I didn’t know how to get deep into discussion with it, because I am looking at the loss of so many plants and animals as devestating, especially because of human interfearrance.  Is it better to spend the funds on the animals and plants that we feel are best for us to keep around? Or the ones that have the best chances? Can we actually have a zero extinction?   For someone like Professor Griffith who has spent much time with the SJV, it is worth keeping around, and trying to save, even though there is not definite benefit for the human species.  He values it, so in that thought, Value itself, is a very tricky thing.

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  1. terra says:

    jhanes, I kept thinking about the Panda Bear as well. It is a great creature, but certainly is not a strong species or a fighter really. Does not adapt to new things. I agree greatly that the distinction between natural and human causes for decline can be extremely difficult to determine.

  2. terra says:

    I am feeling that my bias as well falls more on the conservation side of it. I keep thinking bout how our resources (money) needs to be placed strategically. If we attempt to save all the endangered species just by trying to halt the loss of them, resources may simply be spread too thin.

  3. You have asked all the right questions to continue this discussion about how to save endangered species. Each of these questions suggests a decision on our part. Are some species better for us? Do some species have a better chance of survival? part of the reason it may be difficult to decide between Zero Extinction and Conservation Triage is because
    1) these decisions are complex
    2) it is easy to disagree about the “correct” answers to the questions.

    But, now that you’ve asked the questions you can have important and intelligent discussions about the answers.

    My bias falls on the side of Conservation Triage. I believe we have sufficient ecological evidence on many critically endangered species to decide which might go extinct and have little to no impact on ecological functions of natural systems? Is this fair? Maybe not. Is this necessary? I believe it is because there is no such thing as “All the money in the world.”

  4. jhanes2 says:

    Like you mentioned, I think one of the more important aspects to consider when looking at a threatened or endangered species is the cause of it’s potential extinction. If the species is in danger of becoming extinct due to human activity, then we should invest in its protection. However, if the species is going extinct because it isn’t well adapted to its environment, then it may be the case where we should just let nature take its course.

    One of the more frequently cited examples of this is the panda bear, which some argue has evolved to the point where it cannot survive on its own. For instance, it has a small global range, a very specific diet, and each individual requires a fairly large territory. They do not reproduce well, even under strictly controlled conditions, and populations in the wild are declining significantly. However, the panda’s natural habitat is also being cleared at an increasingly fast rate, and some argue that this is the most significant factor in panda decline. Making the distinction between natural and human causes for decline can be very difficult, both for pandas and the SJV.

  5. Dr. Szulczewski says:

    I was glad to see you at the talk- it was a great combination of one case study and a philosophical question. Thanks for sharing all these resources from the talk.