Public Release: 

Top experts meet in Cambridge to address climate change and the future of plant life

New England Wild Flower Society hosts symposium, shares insights from peer-reviewed study, 'The State of the Plants' in New England

New England Wild Flower Society

Plants are the foundation of global ecosystems, creating the habitats that nurture all other living beings. How will plants respond to the predicted changes in temperature and precipitation from a warming climate?

At the "Climate Change and the Future of Plant Life" symposium, hosted by New England Wild Flower Society, five noted botanists and ecologists will discuss new findings and current research on the state of New England's plants; the historical patterns and current evidence of climate-induced adaptation, migration, and loss; and strategies for conserving and managing plant species and natural communities in the face of climate change.

When: Thursday, March 26, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Where: Microsoft New England R&D Center, 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA

Symposium Presentations

  • Keynote: State of the World's Plants and the Development of Global Systems for Their Conservation and Use, Dr. Paul Smith, newly appointed Secretary General, Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization regularly issues two reports--"State of the World's Forest Genetic Resources" and "State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture"-- accompanied by global action plans. The approaches to conservation and sustainable use in the action plans offer valuable strategies for those of us in the plant diversity community.

  • State of the Plants: Challenges and Opportunities for Conservation of the New England Flora, Dr. Elizabeth Farnsworth, Senior Research Ecologist, New England Wild Flower Society.

New England Wild Flower Society is releasing a comprehensive, peer-reviewed report that, for the first time, presents and analyzes the most up-to-date data on the status of plants on the New England landscape. From these data, we can understand the challenges to New England's plant communities and develop a framework for protecting the viability of thousands of species that together comprise our diverse and vibrant flora.

  • Whither New England? Scenarios for the Future and Perspectives from the Past, Dr. David R. Foster, Director of the Harvard Forest, Harvard University.

New England, like much of the globe, is faced with the potential for major change due to the interplay of climate change, human activity, and a range of physical and biological disturbances. Lessons from the deep and recent past and tools from scenario science and modeling help inform our expectations for how these may play out, but a huge uncertainty is our willingness and ability to advance conservation.

  • Identifying Species at Risk from Climate Change and Considering Alternative Conservation Strategies, Dr. Dov F. Sax, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University and the Deputy Director for Education of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Many species are likely to be at risk of extinction from climate change. We are currently poorly equipped, however, to determine which species are most likely to be impacted. This presentation describes a new approach, using non-native and horticultural distributions of plants, to forecast risks from climate change. We also consider the relative merits of alternative (and controversial) conservation strategies, such as "managed relocation."

  • Options: The Key to a Resilient Future, Andy Finton, Director of Conservation Programs for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.

Resilience defines the ability of plants, animals, and entire ecosystems to moderate the impacts of climate change, cope with consequences, and take advantage of opportunities; in short, the capacity to adapt. Climate resilient areas identified by The Nature Conservancy will enable species and communities to move, or "rearrange," as climate change alters their habitats, providing natural strongholds to conserve biological diversity into the future.


For more information about the symposium and to register, go to or contact Lana Reed, New England Wild Flower Society Public Programs Coordinator, at, 508-877-7630, ext. 3303.

About New England Wild Flower Society

The mission of New England Wild Flower Society is to conserve and promote the region's native plants to ensure healthy, biologically diverse landscapes. Founded in 1900, the Society is the nation's oldest plant conservation organization and a recognized leader in native plant conservation, horticulture, and education. The Society's headquarters, Garden in the Woods, is a renowned native plant botanic garden in Framingham, Massachusetts, that attracts visitors from all over the world. From this base, 25 staff and more than 700 volunteers work throughout New England to monitor and protect rare and endangered plants, collect and preserve seeds to ensure biological diversity, detect and control invasive species, conduct research, and offer a range of educational programs.

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