Urgent protection needed for rare plant on Hainan Island
A new study in the journal Oryx has found that a plant species on Hainan Island, China thought to be extinct has been discovered in small numbers.
One of the authors of the study, Bo Li said “The enigmatic plant Wenchengia alternifolia C. Y. Wu & S. Chow is endemic to Hainan Island, China, and prior to the discovery of a remnant population in 2010 the species was believed to be extinct. No further populations were found during field surveys in 2010–2012, and the rediscovered population is probably the only one remaining. Given the very small population size (45 reproductive plants, 14 non-reproductive plants and seven seedlings) and harsh habitat in the stony Shuangximu Valley, any habitat destruction or disturbance of the population could trigger extinction.
There has already been extensive land-use change on Hainan Island from the expansion of plantations and rapid development of urbanization, mining and tourism, which have resulted in a dramatic transformation of once-contiguous forests into small isolated fragments. The last refuge of the plant will need to be restored and protected, and ex situ conservation measures are underway, with five plants of W. alternifolia transplanted to a greenhouse in South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. In a newly published article in Oryx, Conservation status of the unique population of Wenchengia alternifolia, an enigmatic plant endemic to Hainan Island, China, Li et al. provides detailed habitat information, evaluates the major threats to the species’ survival and proposes appropriate conservation strategies.”