An initial industrial flora: A framework for botanical research in cooperation with industry for biodiversity conservation
Humans have created an accelerating, increasingly connected, globalized economy, resulting in a more globalized, shared flora. The prevention of new, establishing species is less costly, both economically and ecologically, and is more manageable than eradicating nonnative invasive species once they are widespread and negatively impactful. We ask if international trade hubs and points-of-entry with high-volume trade, constant disturbance, and propagule rain have a higher number of nonnative species compared to surrounding areas and if they may serve as initial establishment sites and refugia of nonnative, invasive populations. Therefore, we partnered with various federal, state, and private interests to evaluate the floristic composition at the Garden City Terminal of the Port of Savannah, Georgia, USA. We conducted the following study to demonstrate the collaborative relationship-building between researchers and industry and to develop a framework for biodiversity conservation. In our study, we collected all reproductive vascular plants in the secured areas of the Garden City Terminal during four major seasonal time points over two years. The percent of nonnative species and number of nonnative plant species per hectare at this industrial location exceeded all other comparison floras. The mean coefficient of conservatism was lowest among the comparison floras, indicating a highly disturbed habitat with nonnative, weedy native, and other native species tolerant of disturbance. Our study represents one of the first inventories of an Industrialized Flora and indicates that such areas are hot-spots of nonnative plant diversity and possible sources of emergent plant invasions. We posit that industrial sites and international points-of-entry should be considered laboratories for research on species transport and introduction, adaptability, and taxonomic delineation to better understand the mechanisms and consequences of biotic homogenization due to the volume and frequency of anthropogenic activities.