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Tetramicra malpighiarum (Tetramicra malpighiarum)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 162514350

Ecology and conservation of Tetramicra malpighiarum, the most endangered orchid of Cuba

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 162514350) - Tetramicra malpighiarum - Awarded $2,500 on January 20, 2017

Tetramicra malpighiarum (Orchidaceae) is a Cuban epiphytic and endemic species. It is categorized as endangered, and only two populations are reported, of few individuals growing fundamentally on Malpighia incana (Malpighiaceae). It inhabits in the northern coast of Ciego de Ávila province ("Las Mamitas"), and in the southern coast of the eastern portion of the island, where the most important population is located, in "El Guafe", Granma province. There is no information about the population of "Las Mamitas" since 2000, when the species was described. This locality is highly vulnerable, considering that it is located in an area with tourist development, outside any protected space. The population of "El Guafe" is within Desembarco del Granma National Park; but in the public use zone, which limits its protection. Both populations are exposed to deforestation, tourist development and illegal collection of individuals.
Besides, this orchid has been poorly studied and little is known about its ecology, its life cycle, species of phorophytes (trees and shrubs where the species grow as epiphyte) with which it is associated, the real status of its population/s and the actual territorial area occupied by the taxon.
This project will be a breakthrough for the knowledge and conservation of T. malpighiarum. The information obtained will provide the tools to influence on the administrators of biodiversity in Cuba, to achieve more efficient protection mechanisms and to extend protection to areas where the species possibly inhabit and that are not yet discovered. Tetramicra malpighiarum is a small species, but despite of it, is a very charismatic plant that could function as flag species in its habitat.
This research will allow to know the actual number of individuals and to identify new populations of T. malpighiarum, to re-discover the population at Las Mamitas locality, to develop a map of current and potential distribution, to know the reproductive status of the species, population structure in all populations, the circular distribution and vertical zonation of the individuals on the phorophytes and the species and dimensions of the phorophytes where this orchid species grows. The project also will develop awareness activities with some of the human communities nearby orchid populations, in order to involve them in its conservation.
Our data would serve as a foundation for future research on the health of populations of this important orchid species. Additionally, the conservation status of T. malpighiarum could provide an indication of the overall health of the ecosystem.

Project documents