The Earth’s deserts are home to over one billion people. The delicate balance between humans and the unique biota that thrive in these habitats depends largely on maintaining a healthy and stable desert environment. Desert Botanical Garden’s Research and Conservation programs are tackling the most critical issues affecting desert health and sustainability. The Garden’s team brings decades of experience and passion to a core vision of protecting the Earth’s deserts through science, conservation and education.
The Dryland Plant Ecophysiology Lab
The Dryland Plants Ecophysiology Lab seeks to identify tree ecophysiological traits that underlie adaptation to heat waves, drought, herbivory and other stressors. Along with collaborators at Northern Arizona University, the research is providing critical information for practitioners to restore and conserve dryland riparian forests under current and future environmental conditions.
The Desert Botanical Garden Herbarium (DES) is the largest herbarium in the state that is supported by a nonprofit institution and is the fourth largest herbarium in Arizona (behind the three state university herbaria). It holds more than 93,000 accessions in the collection. The accession of the initial core collections for DES was started in the 50s and in 72 it was designated as a National Resource Collection.
The Desert Botanical Garden seed bank housed in the Ahearn Desert Conservation Laboratory contains more than 4,000 seed accessions representing some of the rarest plants in the world. The collection is primarily focused on the conservation of desert plants, particularly those of the cactus and agave families. In addition to these families, the Garden also works in collaboration with the Smithsonian and the North American Orchid Conservation Center to conserve seeds from the numerous orchid species of the Southwest – some of which are extremely rare. Although seed banking is no substitute for protecting the habitat of these plants, the preservation of their seeds acts as an insurance policy to prevent extinction
Laboratory of Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics
The Garden’s Research, Conservation and Collections Department has a molecular lab facility equipped with eight individual workstations and is available for students, technicians and other researchers. Research topics explored in the lab range from phylogenetics of major plant groups such as the agavoideae to population genetics of individual rare plant species.
Pollinator Conservation Research Program
The Garden is researching the way plants support our pollinators and other beneficial insects. Insects, especially pollinators and butterflies, are undergoing drastic declines. They depend on plants for nectar, pollen or as a host for herbivorous caterpillars. In order to conserve butterflies, we need to support the plants that give them life and better understand these relationships.