Klein's rib-less orchid (Anathallis kleinii)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 152511139
Ensuring the survival of Klein's rib-less orchid in Brazil's remaining Atlantic forest.
The Natural History Museum in London (NHM) promotes and challenges the way people think about the natural world, stimulating public debate about humanity’s future and equipping its audiences at every level with a deeper understanding of science. This purpose is increasingly important and urgent as species and ecosystems are being destroyed faster than we can describe them or understand their significance. Internationally, the NHM aims to develop global relationships to build capacity among our partners and tackle major scientific challenges, such as biodiversity loss, food security, the spread of diseases and the supply of scarce minerals. Pursuing this goal, the “Plants Under Pressure” project identifies and evaluates threatened plant species across the globe, which, when identified, become the target of concentrated efforts to ensure their survival.
Based on this, current activities are focused on the Critically Endangered micro-orchid species, Anathallis kleinii (Pabst) Luer, endemic to an area of threatened Atlantic forest in southern Brazil, on the island of Florianopolis, that is smaller than 10km2. Micro-orchids have high commercial value and, while many species of orchids are easy to propagate under artificial circumstances, it is never certain how protected native populations are from orchid-lover plant hunters. Besides, and more importantly, the whole Atlantic forest vegetation has suffered historically, particularly from housing developments and small-scale agriculture. Anathallis kleinii is an epiphytic species found on trees in moist tropical forest, an environment in which many other species also depend on having adequate canopy cover. Therefore, through the generous support from The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund to target the survival of this endemic orchid, the native where this micro-orchid is found will equally benefit, along with all other species of the vegetation. In this regard, species of ferns and mosses provisionally identified as rare and/or suspected as threatened have also been surveyed while targeting Anathallis kleinii.
Thanks to the assistance in the field of our local counterpart Carlos Eduardo Siqueira, the precise locality of the type collection of Anathallis kleinii area has been located, the number of mature individuals in the area counted and habitat quality status evaluated by observation (identifying native/invasive species, level of humidity and shade and degree of canopy cover). Similar suitable habitats within the island of Florianopolis (Brazil) have been visited and another subpopulation has successfully been found within the island, though habitat loss has also been identified at this site. Meanwhile, a putative locality previously recorded for this species (Parana – Brazil) has not been confirmed, where instead a different species of Anathallis has been identified. Now that Anathallis kleinii has been established as being endemic to Florianopolis alone, extra efforts are being made to contact local authorities and community representatives in the known localities to increase the protection of the Atlantic forest against new building developments. A community spokesman has been contacted and a formal meeting should follow alongside another survey of the subpopulations to evaluate the progress so far in preserving the species and habitat.
The initial assessment of A. kleinii as Critically Endangered was made during the first phase of the Plants Under Pressure project, without the help of any detailed information from fieldwork. It was then only known from a single collection in an area not appearing to be under any level of protected status, and it was evident that there was habitat destruction and urban expansion in the area. It was therefore rated as Critically Endangered due to a very small area of occupancy (one of two separate measures of geographical range for the IUCN Red List), a single location, on-going habitat loss and lack of any formal protection. Happily, as a result of our work, we have now been able to confirm the existence of A. kleinii in its original locality, and also in a second location and probably also a third. This has increased the known range of the species and means that its area of occupancy has increased tois now more thanabove the 10km2 threshold (in fact to about 60km2). Its Red List status has therefore improved from Critically Endangered to Endangered and, if current plans to strengthen the protected area system on Floripa come to fruition, it may be possible in the future to up-lift its Red List status further.
- Article for the NHM's evolve magazine
Project 152511139 location - Brazil, South America