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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 18:89-94 (2012)  -  DOI:

Update on the distribution of Lepanthes caritensis, a rare Puerto Rican endemic orchid

Benjamin J. Crain1,*, Raymond L. Tremblay2

1Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, San Juan 00936, Puerto Rico
2Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico-Humacao, Humacao 00792, Puerto Rico

ABSTRACT: Lepanthes caritensis is a small epiphytic orchid endemic to Puerto Rico. Although this species is very rare and demographic studies show that its numbers are declining, it is not protected under the United States Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Furthermore, questions remain regarding its distribution, population size and ecological interactions, including host-specificity, which could influence its likelihood of extinction. The primary objective of this study was to document the overall population size and distribution of this orchid to determine whether it warrants federal listing. To this end, extensive surveys were conducted to document the current distribution and population size of L. caritensis. These data were used to classify the species’ rarity status according to criteria outlined by Rabinowitz, NatureServe and the IUCN. Results of these surveys indicate that the overall population of L. caritensis is larger and more widely distributed than previously thought. In addition, the species is not host-specific outside its originally described range, and is found on at least 4 different host species. Nevertheless, this species is indeed rare: it meets the criteria for the NatureServe category ‘critically imperiled’ and the IUCN category ‘Critically Endangered’. Consequently, the most important conclusion of this study is that this species warrants legal protection under the ESA, particularly if its population continues to decline.

KEY WORDS: Critically imperiled species · Endangered species · Rarity status · Epiphytes · Caribbean flora · Host specificity · Rare plant distribution

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Cite this article as: Crain BJ, Tremblay RL (2012) Update on the distribution of Lepanthes caritensis, a rare Puerto Rican endemic orchid. Endang Species Res 18:89-94.

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