Catalina Island is home to many rare and endangered species of plants and animals, like the Thread-leaf rock cress and the Catalina Island Fox. The Catalina Island Conservancy is now focusing on restoring the island and Peter Dixon, who is the plant conservation manager of the island, is on the search for one of the thirty-two endangered species of plants on the island, which is the Thread-leaf rock cress.
The Thread-leaf rock cress, which is a member of the mustard family, is a tiny flowering annual plant with the scientific name Sibara Fili folia. The plant was once thought to be extinct on the island, but Dixon and many other members of the Catalina Island Conservancy have documented the presence of this tiny plant on the island. The boots on the ground approach followed by the members of the conservancy highlight the importance that botanists and biologists give to protecting the biodiversity on the island.
“Biodiversity is the richness and wonder of life, and the loss of any of the flora or fauna, particularly insular endemics, is a loss of the natural heritage of that place,” Dixon said. “Discovering and documenting rare and endangered species, like the Thread-leaf rock cress, help us understand the habitats they need so that we can protect those species and the biological diversity that is so critical to understanding the past and our future.”
Catalina and the other members of the Channel Islands are usually referred to as the “Galapagos of North America”, as there is a vast variety of flora and fauna here, which also includes a disproportionately high number of species unique to the islands, called as endemic species. Reports show that Catalina Island alone has more than sixty endemic species and it is believed that the surveys that are conducted by the Conservancy will help find more species.
“We face special challenges in protecting biodiversity on Catalina because it is an Island with many introduced species and significant impact from humans,” said Tony Budrovich, President, and CEO of the Catalina Island Conservancy. “With the Conservancy’s dedicated conservation staff and its collaborations with many others, we are conducting studies and methods for protecting the Island’s native species. In doing so, we ensure that Catalina serves as a living laboratory for protecting biodiversity on other islands and the mainland.”