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Binational Collaboration Helps Protect Plants Across U.S.–Mexico Border

June 25, 2024

The Nat's Plant Lists Reveal The State Of Botany Conservation In Baja California

SAN DIEGO—Conservationists and botanists from the U.S. and Mexico are celebrating the publication of a Baja California native flora inventory designed to improve plant conservation efforts across border lines and promote the sustainable development of the state of Baja California. This comprehensive catalog of native plants is the result of a collaborative effort between experts and scientists from both sides of the border, marking a significant step forward in protecting biodiversity across shared ecosystems. 

The botanical inventory, featuring over 2,300 plant taxa, uses scientific data from The Nat’s herbarium and assesses every plant known to occur in the state of Baja California. The list provides detailed information about each plant, including commonality, current threat status, distribution, endemism, and level of documentation—all of which inform the degree of protection each plant should have. 

“This is a massive step toward better understanding and conserving the botanical resources of Baja California,” shared Jon Rebman, curator of botany at The Nat, “It has been a tremendous effort, and this project speaks to what can be achieved through binational collaboration. 

While Southern California and Baja California share ecosystems and species, the binational region is rarely managed cohesively, with environmental regulations north of the border being far stricter and more closely enforced than those in Mexico. Currently, there is only one federal law (NOM- 059-SEMARNAT-2010) that provides active protection for endangered Mexican flora, and the botanic community considers it alarmingly incomplete for plants in the state of Baja California. 

Now recognized by the state’s Secretary of Environment and Sustainable Development, this plant checklist will be instrumental in crafting a new state regulation that is backed by expert botanists and up to date. If passed, this will be the first time California and Baja California have comparable protection categories for plants across border lines. The new state regulation has the potential to: 

  • Enforce fines on entities or individuals who damage listed plants. 
  • Deny changes in land use if protected species are present. 
  • Rescue plants in danger of being cleared for development. 
  • Enforce environmental fines on developers that correspond with the impacts generated by clearing flora. 
  • Lay the groundwork for further study of rare or threatened flora. 
  • Promote the sustainable development of the state of Baja California. 

I am proud of the collaborative work and this unprecedented step forward that the state of Baja California has taken to recognize and conserve its native flora,” said Mariana Delgado Fernández, founder of Expediciones Botánicas and associate researcher at The Nat, “But this is only the first step to ensure our region’s flora is here for many generations to come. 

The publication of this inventory with rare, threatened, and endemic plants is expected to pave the way for more coordinated and effective conservation efforts along the U.S.-Mexico border and reminds us that the preservation of our natural heritage transcends border lines. 

About the San Diego Natural History Museum  

The San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) is one of California’s oldest and most respected cultural and scientific institutions. Founded in 1874 by a small group of community scientists, the Museum works to preserve and protect this amazing place we call home. The Museum is located at 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 in Balboa Park. For more information, call 877.946.7797 or visit Follow The Nat on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Twitter.    



Photos of scientists and rare plants available on Dropbox.

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