Abstract Detail

Bryophytes and Lichens on the Edges of Changing Ecosystems

Merced, Amelia [1].

Surviving against all odds: two lost and found Sphagnum species.

Conservation efforts in the Caribbean have focused on trees and forests, which means bryophytes are protected when their habitat is preserved, but rarely an habitat is preserved because of a bryophyte. In Puerto Rico, the smaller of the Greater Antilles, anthropogenic changes in land used for agriculture in the past, and now for tourism and urban development, result in deforestation that threaten ecosystems. Increased intensity and frequency of hurricanes, changes in precipitation and sea level due to climate change, make the coastal areas especially sensitive to losses in biodiversity. The distribution of two species of Sphagnum from coastal plains was investigated using collections from herbaria. Historical and potential sites were visited to confirm the presence of Sphagnum. The most recent records for these species were in 1927 (S. trinitense) and 1985 (S. perichaetiale), by 1995 these two species were believed to be extinct because of habitat destruction. The historical distribution of S. perichaetiale and S. trinitense was inferred to be widespread in wetlands of the norther coastal plains by the 1930. However, about 96% of the island of Puerto Rico was deforested by 1940, and the wetlands were drained for agriculture and housing. In 2021, S. perichaetiale and S. trinitense were found in a single locality in a non-protected area of the northern coastal plains. Given their rarity and threats to their habitat, these species should be protected. Currently bryophytes are not included in the list of endangered species of Puerto Rico and are usually overlooked in land management plans. With the finding of two lost species, this project also aims to work with local and federal organizations to recognize and include S. perichaetiale and S. trinitense as vulnerable species and consequentially protect the land that is their habitat.

1 - University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, Biology, PO Box 23360, San Juan, PR, 00931

climate change
land use

Presentation Type: Colloquium Presentations
Number: C7004
Abstract ID:892
Candidate for Awards:None

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