Wild harvested plants, whether for food or medicine, run the risk of being over-harvested, potentially to the point of extinction. We have long had an interest in looking at the sustainability of wild harvest of plants such as Echinacea and Osha. In this vein, we have also worked with The United Plant Savers (UpS) to develop a tool to help assess the risk of overharvest.
The United Plant Savers (UpS) is known for having developed a list of medicinal plants at risk for over-harvest, recognized by the herbal community, the herbal products trade, conservation organization, and regulatory agencies. We have worked with UpS to update the list and to help develop a tool to objectively rank at-risk species based on a common scoring system. UpS initiated conversations with Lisa Castle and Kelly Kindscher to fine-tune the scoring tool in a project funded by UpS. This project involved
- Review of the overall scoring system.
- Working with experts, knowledgeable about key species, and who can provided information used to improve the scoring system.
- Collection of field data for key species.
- Development of a mathematics based methodology for reviewing scores.
- Development of more information for use on the UpS website so UpS members and others can contribute information to the ranking of plants.
- Facilitation of ongoing discussions among people from many fields who have experience working with these plants, to better understand which medicinal plants truly are at risk.
The result was a ranking tool that can be applied to a wide range of plants to assess their risk of overharvest, and can be used by harvesters and conservation agencies to develop sustainable harvest plans. See our Ranking Tool paper here.
Monitoring at-risk medicinal plants continues to be an important part of both our program and The United Plant Saver’s work and mission.