It is unclear why the burned areas are less favorable, but our observations present multiple hypothesis, including
- Seedlings are suppressed due to abundant cheatgrass cover
- Lack of bare ground in burned area inhibits pollinators
- Higher soil temperature in burned area suppresses pollinators and seedling germination
- Late frosts are more likely to kill flowers in the burned area
Parachute penstemon (Penstemon debilis) is a federally listed (threatened) plant species that is endemic to Garfield County, Colorado. It is also a Tier 1 plant species in the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) Rare Plant Addendum. Monitoring of population trends is one of the high priority actions listed in the SWAP to meet Parachute penstemon conservation goals. Monitoring enables proactive management by allowing early identification of potential threats or downward trends in population size, and development of strategies to enhance long-term population viability.
CNHP is working with the Colorado Natural Areas Program/Colorado Parks and Wildlife to establish a long-term monitoring plot for this species.
The habitat occupied by Parachute penstemon is characterized by sparsely vegetated, steep slopes of white shale talus. Because the unstable shale slopes make sampling dangerous and disturb plant habitat, alternative monitoring methods were developed for population sampling. Data collection was accomplished using two methods, photo monitoring and ocular counts (visually searching each transect with binoculars). These two methods of sampling were used in lieu of walking on the steep, unstable shale slopes to prevent damage to Parachute penstemon and the surrounding habitat. This data establishes a visual record of plant abundance as well as a record of plant and site condition. To further minimize surface disturbance future sampling with drones is being investigated.
To further the conservation of Colorado’s listed species we recommend the following:
- Maintain consistent funding and dedicated resources
- Continue to collaborate and acquire data from agency staff, academic institutions, and private consultants
- Continue field surveys on public, private and tribal lands
- Increase demographic monitoring