Ecology and Diversity of Solanum trisectum Dunal From Madeira Island:Implications for Its Conservation

Solanum trisectum Dunal is an endemic Solanaceae of Madeira Island (Portugal), considered critically endangered due to its extreme rarity. Since its discovery this species has shown a narrow distributional range mainly on the northern side of the island, with scattered and small populations and large time gaps between sightings. The present work aimed to understand the underlying ecological underpinnings for this species rarity towards an effort to increase the success of conservation actions. Data on historical locations, environmental conditions field surveys, reinforcement in situ and ex situ germination trials were obtained. The species was found to currently occur only in two wild populations and two reinforcement sites, amounting to twenty-four plants in total. Statistical analysis of these data related wild populations and successful reinforcement sites, separating them from other sites where the reinforcement did not succeed. This suggests that the successful reinforcement sites showed conditions more similar to wild population sites compared to non-successful ones. The data obtained supports the hypothesis that S. trisectum distribution and rarity is determined by species specific habitat needs, i.e., abiotic conditions, which have been for the first time assessed during the present work. Further, this study also reinforces the classification of S. trisectum as a top priority species for conservation.

Author(s): Sónia Ferraz Alves*, Fábio Reis, Dina Henriques, Gregório Freitas, Carla SS Gouveia, Francisco Manuel Fernandes and Miguel AA Pinheiro de Carvalho

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