Rare plant is rediscovered after 30 years
By Mariana Gutiérrez
The species Pleroma hirsutissimum was rediscovered in nature after more than 30 years by the team of the National Action Plan for the Conservation of Endemic Flora Endangered of Extinction in the state of Rio de Janeiro (PAN Flora Endemic of Rio de Janeiro), at Costa do Sol State Park in Cabo Frio, Rio de Janeiro. The action is the result of a sequence of expeditions carried out in November 2020, within the scope of the Pro-Species Project: All against extinction.
The implementation of the PAN Flora Endemic of Rio de Janeiro is coordinated by the Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS-RJ) in partnership with the State Institute for Environment (INEA), Research Institute, Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden by way of the National Center for Conservation of Flora (CNCFlora) and consultancy by WWF-Brazil.
The field expeditions that resulted in the rediscovery of the species had the objective of collecting seeds and producing seedlings of native species of the state. The places visited were the Costa do Sol State Park (PECS), Massambaba Environmental Protection Area (APA Massambaba), Jacarepiá State Ecological Reserve (REEJ), Serra da Tiririca State Park (PESET) and urban areas of the municipality of Rio de Janeiro outside protected areas.
The species Pleroma hirsutissimum is an endemic plant of the restingas of Cabo Frio and Arraial do Cabo and is categorized as Critically Endangered (CR), according to the Red Book of Endemic Flora of the State of Rio de Janeiro (2018) and its last collection had been registered in 1982. It was formerly recognized by the name of Tibouchina hirsutissima and is representative of the Atlantic Forest biome. The main pressure vectors of the species are linked to real-estate expansion and environmental impacts caused by summer tourism.
The rediscovery of the species was confirmed by Dr. Paulo Guimarães, a researcher at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden and a specialist in Melastomataceae, who emphasizes the importance of collecting, researching and evaluating species for the registration of the natural heritage of the Atlantic Forest.
“Actions like this one of PAN Flora Endemic, in addition to promoting care for unknown or threatened flora, contribute to society's awareness, so that they also become agents of environmental preservation”, points out Guimarães.
The PAN implementation actions that led to this finding are extremely relevant to promote direct actions in the conservation of endangered species. WWF-Brazil and SEAS-RJ researcher and consultant, Inara Carolina da Silva Batista, states that “besides the PAN target species, other species and the location of occurrence can and should benefit from the planned actions, and the rediscovery expands scientific knowledge about the rich and endangered flora of Rio de Janeiro”.
The Pro-Species Project makes use of a methodology with a territorial approach that provides for the elaboration of joint Action Plans, in which species of flora and fauna that occur in a given territory are included in the same action plan. The methodology was validated by representatives of the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden (JBRJ), Ministry of the Environment (MMA) and WWF-Brazil.
Anna Carolina Lins, a conservation analyst at WWF-Brazil, explains the importance of joint efforts for research and collection in the implementation of actions in Territorial Action Plans: “The rediscovery of such a rare species was an important and unexpected result, an excellent example of how territorial plans can benefit other species. This result was only possible because we had the partnership of protected areas managers, consultants from WWF-Brazil who coordinated the field activities together with SEAS, and the JBRJ researcher who confirmed the identification, resulting in a joint work by public agencies, NGOs and academy”.
About PAN of Endemic Flora of Rio de Janeiro
The National Action Plan for the Conservation of Endemic Flora Endangered of Extinction of the state of Rio de Janeiro (PAN of Endemic Flora of RJ) was initiated in June 2020 and seeks to conserve endemic species in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
It is coordinated by the Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS-RJ) and by National Center for Conservation of Flora of Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden (CNCFlora/ JBRJ). The Plan benefits more than 500 species in the state of Rio de Janeiro exclusively and comprises biodiversity management actions, scientific research, seedling production and restoration actions, among others.
About Pro-Species Project
The Pro-Species Project: All against extinction is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), coordinated by the Ministry of the Environment, implemented by The Brazilian Fund for Biodiversity (Funbio), and WWF-Brasil as the executing agency. The objective is to leverage initiatives to reduce threats and improve the conservation status of at least 290 species categorized as Critically Endangered (CR) and that do not have any conservation instruments.