Geographic, Demographic, And Ecological Aspects Of Lepanthes (Orchidaceae) Conservation
Crain, Benjamin James
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Biodiversity conservation is one of the most convoluted environmental challenges facing humanity. Various natural and anthropogenic disturbances to the environment have contributed substantially to the extirpation of populations and to the eventual extinction of countless species. Incorporating multiple types of analyses into conservation research may help shed light on the driving forces behind population extirpation and species extinction patterns so that these outcomes may be avoided or prevented. Orchids are among the most threatened biological groups on the planet, and therefore, the research presented here makes use of geographic, demographic, and ecological analyses of species within the genus Lepanthes Sw. (Orchidaceae) to help establish conservation strategies for this unique component of global biodiversity. Specifically, the geographic distribution of Lepanthes spp. was assessed and conservation priorities were identified based on measures of richness, rarity, and threat. A population viability analysis of a rare and endemic species of Lepanthes was also conducted to evaluate the potential effects of catastrophic disturbance regimes. Furthermore, the potential effects of climate change were assessed by analyzing physiological fitness of a group of Lepanthes when exposed to variable conditions. Results indicate that a relatively large number of Lepanthes spp. are currently threatened with extinction from environmental disturbances including habitat loss, natural catastrophes, and climate change. By employing analyses from a variety of disciplines at multiple scales, however, the effects of various threats, can be measured, modelled, and potentially addressed. Opportunities exist to insure that many Lepanthes survive and flourish if appropriate conservation strategies are implemented. Ideally, this research will help improve Lepanthes conservation and management efforts, stimulate continuing research on Lepanthes spp., and bolster support for orchid preservation in general.