Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

Conservation status of native plant hybrids in the British Virgin Islands.

Abstract

Background: Hybridization is an evolutionary event present in the natural world. Several studies suggest that natural hybridization is an important process in plant evolution, creating new genetic combinations which can play a vital role in speciation (Soltis and Soltis 2009, Soltis 2013, Neri et al. 2017, Taylor and Larson 2019). Therefore, it is important to understand and protect naturally occurring hybrids, conserving their ecological novelties and new traits, such as the ability to explore new niches, different from those of the parental species (Soltis 2013, Supple and Shapiro 2018). The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is a UK Overseas Territory situated in the Caribbean biodiversity hotspot (Myers et al. 2000). To date, three natural hybrids are known to occur within this territory: Tillandsia × lineatispica Mez, Anthurium × selloanum K. Koch and Coccoloba krugii × C. uvifera R.A. Howard (Howard 1957, Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong 2005, Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong 2012). Tillandsia × lineatispica is endemic to the Puerto Rican Bank, occurring in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands (USVI) and the British Virgin Islands with an extent of occurrence estimated to be 3,390 km2 and a limited number of locations. The suitable habitat for this hybrid is declining mainly due to the negative impacts of feral ungulates, development for tourism and residential infrastructure and the impact of human-induced wildfires. In addition, it is suspected that the global population does not exceed 10,000 individuals with the largest subpopulation on Beef Island in the BVI thought to have no more than 1,000 mature individuals. This hybrid is therefore evaluated as Vulnerable, based on IUCN Red List Criteria, B1a(iii)+2b(iii) + C2a(i). Anthurium × selloanum is an endemic hybrid to BVI and USVI with a very restricted extent of occurrence which was estimated to range between 103 km2 and 207 km2 and an area of occupancy which was estimated to range between 56 km2 and 188 km2 and a limited number of locations. The suitable habitat of this species is declining mainly due to the negative impacts of feral ungulates, development for tourism and residential infrastructure and the negative impact of recreation activities in protected areas. This species is therefore evaluated as Endangered, based on IUCN Red List Criteria B1a+ b(iii) + B2a+b(iii).Coccoloba krugii × C. uvifera is native to the BVI, USVI, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Anguilla. It is estimated to have an extent of occurrence of 89,412 km2. This value exceeds the threshold for any threatened category. Despite an observed continuing decline of suitable habitat for this species, which is being degraded mainly through ongoing development pressures, this species occurs in more than 10 locations. It is therefore assessed as Least Concern (LC). New information: In this paper, we discuss the conservation status of all the known, naturally occurring, native hybrids in the the British Virgin Islands and we provide distribution data, including new records, from across these hybrid species ranges. Although conservation assessments of hybrids are out of the scope of the published IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee 2019), we use the IUCN Red List Criteria and Categories (version 3.1) to establish an equivalent conservation status of these hybrids and discuss conservation action due to the potential evolutionary importance of these naturally occurring hybrids. These assessments provide the necessary baseline information for prioritising species conservation and making informed management decisions, such as establishing the BVI's Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAS) network (Sanchez et al. 2019).