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Seabeach amaranth (afsmaranthus pumilus).

Seabeach Amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus) A threatened plant, the seabeach amaranth was recently rediscovered in three States within its historical range: New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. Seabeach amaranth occurred historically in nine states from Massachusetts to South Carolina, but was previously considered extirpated from six of these states. Prior to the recent discoveries, the plant was known to exist only in New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Staff from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' New York District, the New Jersey Conserve Wildlife Foundation, and the Service's New Jersey Field Office discovered several occurrences of the plant in Monmouth County, New Jersey, in July 2000. The Service alerted National Park Service staff at the nearby Sandy Hook Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area and recommended surveys. Subsequent searches documented four additional seabeach amaranth sites at Sandy Hook. The last known occurrence of seabeach amaranth in New Jersey was in 1913, and the plant had not been found in Monmouth County since 1899. Seabeach amaranth was also documented in Delaware this year after an absence of 125 years, and it was found in Maryland in 1998 after being extirpated from that state for more than 30 years. Recent surveys have documented approximately 4 plants in Maryland, 50 plants in Delaware, and more than 1,000 plants in New Jersey.

The Monmouth County municipal beaches where the plant was found were created by a Corps beach nourishment project in 1995. The Corps has since worked with the Service, the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program, and local municipalities to monitor and manage beach-nesting birds, including the piping plover (Charadrius melodus), using the newly created habitat. Staff from the Corps and our New Jersey Field Office have met with officials from Monmouth County municipalities to inform them of the plant's discovery, and to solicit their cooperation in protecting seabeach amaranth from threats associated with pedestrians and vehicles. The municipalities were receptive, and agreed to alert public works and emergency vehicle operators, and to permit fencing in high traffic areas containing large numbers of plants. The Service is also working with the municipalities to inform area residents about the newly discovered plant.

Efforts are also underway to restore seabeach amaranth populations in Maryland by planting seedlings, propagated from seeds of Maryland plants, on Assateague Island. The National Park Service, Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Division, and the Service are cooperating in this effort.

Biologists do not yet have enough information to determine how seabeach amaranth returned to New Jersey after its almost 90-year absence. Seeds may have blown or floated from Long Island, may have washed up from the Carolinas during a tropical storm, or may have been buried in the offshore sands used to nourish the beach. Plants from the newly discovered populations in Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey will be included in a genetics study of seabeach amaranth. Results of the study may provide insight into the plant's sudden reappearance in these three states.

Reported by Wendy Walsh of the Service's New Jersey Field Office.
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Author:Walsh, Wendy
Publication:Endangered Species Update
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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