Endangered, Threatened and Rare Wetland Plants and Animals of the Continental United States

  • William A. Niering


Of the endangered, threatened and rare taxa in the United States a large number are wetland dependent. Of the 188 animals federally designated, 94 or 50 per cent are wetland related. Of the 103 plants listed, 29 or 28 per cent are wetland dependent. Fish, mussels and birds represent the largest number of endangered and threatened animals. Of the estimated 2,500 plants still in need of protection it is estimated that 700 may be wetland related. Although over half our nation’s wetlands have been lost, increasing awareness of the functional role of these liquid assets has somewhat slowed the pace of loss in recent decades. Wetland endangered and threatened species have benefited from this trend, as pointed out by Williams and Dodd (1979). Why should we be concerned about preserving rare or endangered species? The analogy by Ehrlich and Ehrlich (1981) of the aeroplane from which wing rivets are being removed is most relevant. The man removing the rivets assures the passengers they have nothing to worry about. Obviously, no sane person would board such a plane. As the authors state

The natural ecological systems of Earth, which supply these vital services, are analogous to the parts of an aeroplane that make it a suitable vehicle for human beings. But ecosystems are much more complex than wings or engines. Ecosystems, like well-made aeroplanes, tend to have redundant subsystems and other ‘design’ features that permit them to continue functioning after absorbing a certain amount of abuse. A dozen rivets, or a dozen species, might never be missed. On the other hand, a thirteenth rivet popped from a wing flap, or the extinction of a key species involved in the cycling of nitrogen, could lead to a serious accident.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bury, R.B., Dodd, C.K. Jr and Fellers, G.M. (1980) Conservation of the amphibia of the United States : a review. US Dept. of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service Resource Pub. 134. Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  2. Crow, G.E. (1982) New England’s rare, threatened, and endangered plants. US Dept. of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast RegionGoogle Scholar
  3. Deacon, J.E., Kobetich, G., Williams, J.D. and Contreras, S. (1979). Fishes of North America: endangered, threatened, or of special concern: 1979. Fisheries, 4 (2), 29–44Google Scholar
  4. Dyer, R.W. (1983) Furbish lousewort recovery plan. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Denver, ColoradoGoogle Scholar
  5. Ehrenfeld, D. (1978) The arrogance of humanism. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Ehrlich, P. and Ehrlich, A. (1981) Extinction: the causes and consequences of the disappearance of species. Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Fenwick, G.H. (1985) Priority aquatic sites for biological diversity conservation. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VirginiaGoogle Scholar
  8. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (1978) The IUCN plant red data book; compiled by Gren Lucas and Hugh Synge. IUCN, Morges, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  9. Jenkins, R.E. (1983) The Nation’s aquatic estate. Nature Conservancy News 33 (3), 7–13Google Scholar
  10. Kusler, J.A. (1983) Our national wetland heritage: a protection guidebook. The Environmental Law Institute, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  11. Miller, R.S. (1974) The programmed extinction of the sandhill crane. Nat. Hist., Feb., pp. 62–9Google Scholar
  12. Mohlenbrock, R.H. (1983) Where have all the wildflowers gone? A region-by-region guide to threatened or endangered US wildflowers. Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Ono, R.D., Williams, J.D. and Wagner, A. (1983) Vanishing fishes of North America. Stone Wall Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  14. Robinson, R. (1986) Rings of flowers: uniquely Californian, vernal pools host a diversity of endemic species often threatened by their habitat’s destruction. BioSci. 36 (6), 363–5Google Scholar
  15. Roush, G.J. (1985) The heritage concept: entering the second decade. Nature Conservancy News, 35 (6), 5–11Google Scholar
  16. Schwartz, A. (1984) Bright future for a desert refugium. Nature Conservancy News, 34 (5), 13–17Google Scholar
  17. Stuckey, R.L. and Bartolotta, R.J. (1977) Extinct, endangered, and threatened aquatic and wetland herbaceous flowering plants in the United States grouped according to major habitat types. Appendix G In J.A. Kusler, Wetland protection: a guidebook for local governments. The Environmental Law Institute, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  18. US Dept. of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service (1986) Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. US Govt. Printing Office, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  19. US Dept. of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service (1985) Endangered Species Program. Revised plant notice. Endangered Species Technical Bull., X(11), 1, 8Google Scholar
  20. Williams, J.D. and Dodd, C.K. (1979) Importance of wetlands to endangered and threatened species. In P.E. Greeson, J.R. Clark and J.E. Clark (eds), Wetland functions and values: the state of our understanding. Proc. of the National Symposium on Wetlands, 1978. Am. Water Resources Assoc., Minneapolis, Minnesota, pp. 565–75Google Scholar
  21. Zedler, J.B. (1984a) The ecology of southern California coastal salt marshes: a community profile. US Dept. of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC FWS/OBS-81/54Google Scholar
  22. Zedler, J.B. (1984b) Salt marsh restoration: a guidebook for southern California. California Sea Grant College Program, Institute of Marine Resources, University of CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  23. Zedler, P.H. (in press) The ecology of vernal pools of coastal southern California: a community profile. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological ReportGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Donal D. Hook 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • William A. Niering

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations