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Wednesday - October 31, 2007

From: Bethesda, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Rare or Endangered Plants
Title: Why is endangered Sandplain Gerardia (Agalinis acuta) helpful in the environment
Answered by: Nan Hampton


My son is doing a report on endangered plants in Maryland and was assigned the Sandplain Gerardia. On-line we have been able to find much of the information we need for his report. However, there is one question we have not been able to find the answer to: Why is the species helpful in the environment?


You have doubtless seen all the online reports about Sandplain Gerardia (Agalinis acuta) that I could cite here (e.g., from New York, Massachusetts, Maryland). The question you ask is very interesting and isn't answered specifically in any of these. The answer is likely that Sandplain Gerardia isn't "helpful" in any significant way in the environment, but it is rare and its numbers are declining. If it is completely exterminated, the environment is less diverse by one species. Additionally, the extinction of one species may significantly affect other species in the same ecosystem, setting off a cascade of effects. The question you ask is closely tied to the question: "Why save endangered species—why go to the expense and effort to save species that don't show any obvious benefit to us or the environment?" The preamble to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 states that endangered species of fish, wildlife, and plants "are of aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people." It could be argued that Sandplain Gerardia is aesthetically pleasing, (i.e., beautiful), that it has some scientific or medicinal benefit as yet unknown, or it is significant in that it's disappearance is an indicator of environmental quality in the areas where it once thrived.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation has a very good discussion of "Why Save Endangered Species?". There is also an exposition of this question at EndangeredSpecie.com. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also publishes a comprehensive, illustrated booklet, "Why Save Endangered Species?", available online in PDF format.



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