ioneer has developed a Protection Plan for Tiehm’s Buckwheat at the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project Area. Over the past five years, the company has completed comprehensive evaluations of potential protection and management measures will be implemented to preserve and possibly expand this species.
In developing these options, ioneer consulted with experts, particularly those who have studied buckwheat and who are familiar with similar conservation efforts in the West. These experts reviewed the extensive baseline data compiled by ioneer to contribute to the development of a Tiehm’s Buckwheat Protection Plan. This Protection Plan will be appended to the Plan of Operations for the Rhyolite Ridge Project and submitted to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other agencies for their approval.
Key tenets of ioneer’s Tiehm’s buckwheat Protection Plan include:
Habitat Suitability Model. One of the key protection measures supported by ioneer is the creation of a Habitat Suitability Model (HSM) for Tiehm’s buckwheat which identified candidate locations for new or undiscovered populations. The areas indicated by the HSM are considered high priority transplant and propagation sites.
Seed Collection and Banking. Seed obtained from mature Tiehm’s buckwheat plants in 2019 (under a Casual Use authorization from the BLM) is currently being propagated at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) nursery greenhouses. Researchers are reporting higher than expected germination rates (29% versus predicted 16%). Seeding in areas identified by the HSM is a priority for the 2020 season.
Remaining seed collected in 2019 is banked for long-term storage at the Rae Selling Berry Botanic Center in Portland, Oregon. Future seed collection efforts will emphasize sustainable collection that fosters natural germination first, and then provides seed in support of future research, propagation or conservation.
Transplanting of Seedlings. When appropriate, UNR will transplant some of the greenhouse seedlings to Rhyolite Ridge into unoccupied suitable habitat identified by HSM. This work is pending BLM approval.
Relocation of Established Plants. Wherever possible, ioneer intends to salvage plants that cannot be avoided due to geotechnical stability issues addressed in the project design.
Monitoring. Ongoing demographic monitoring of the Tiehm’s buckwheat will be completed along permanent transects established in the project area in 2019. This monitoring is intended to document trends in, and the stability of, existing Tiehm’s buckwheat subpopulations.
Search for New Populations. New high priority potential habitat areas identified by HSM will continue to be surveyed as part of ongoing efforts to find new populations.
Fencing Current Populations. In consultation with the BLM, ioneer is proposing to fence the existing Tiehm’s buckwheat populations to offer protection from recreationists and various fauna who may inadvertently damage these populations.
Genetic Research. Within the Rhyolite Ridge project area, two separate species of the eriogonum genus occur in addition to tiehmii: ovalifolium (Cushion buckwheat), and nummulare (Money Buckwheat). Another species, shockleyi (Shockley’s) occurs, to the west across Fish Lake Valley in the White Mountains. ioneer is sponsoring genetic research of these species to better understand their role in the ecosystem.
Continued Research and Development. ioneer is currently funding additional research through UNR on pollination, and investigating plant/soil relationships for Tiehm’s buckwheat. ioneer’s goal is to learn as much about this species as possible to enable the project to proceed without contributing to the species’ decline. ioneer intends to continue to pursue research utilizing the University of Nevada, Reno and other local universities, professional societies, and botanical experts to further expand the knowledge of this species. Concurrently, ioneer intends to preserve lessons learned and share effective strategies for protection of other sensitive desert species in Nevada.