Floristic and structural characterization of the southernmost natural population of Jubaea chilensis (Molina) Baill. in Chile.
Jubaea chilensis (Molina) Baill. (Chilean palm) is an endemic species in Chile. It has been classified as a vulnerable species because of the reduction and the fragmentation of its population numbers, the exploitation of the palms for the production of syrup, the indiscriminate harvest of seed for human consumption, and the reduction of the accompanying native vegetation cover. The southernmost limit of its natural distribution is located in Palmas de Tapihue (Pencahue, Maule region). The objective of this study was to benchmark the conservation status of this population and its accompanying vegetation. The population of J. chilensis in Tapihue was divided in three areas. The cover of all vascular plants was recorded with 8 plots (16×16 m), and the structure of the vegetation was evaluated with 3 plots (50×20 m). A total of 35 adult specimens of J. chilensis were found in the population, and a regeneration density of 0.2 seedlings/ha, values that are lower than those in other populations. Seedlings were only found under the protection of Peumus boldus Molina. There were 75 species found on the accompanying vegetation, of which 58.6% were classified as introduced species and 52.0% corresponded to therophytes. This population in Palmas de Tapihue had a low richness of accompanying species and a higher species richness of introduced and therophytes species than other populations of J. chilensis. We conclude that the J. chilensis population in Palmas de Tapihue and its accompanying vegetation showed a degraded conservation status. Therefore, it should be necessary to develop an active rehabilitation strategy to aid the recovery of this southernmost J. chilensis population and its accompanying vegetation.