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If you ain't a Gator, you should be! Alligators (and endangered crocs) are important indicator species atop their food chains, with sensitivity to pollution and pesticides akin to humans. See ESA blawg. Gator blood could be our pharmaceutical future, too. See ESA musing.

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KEVIN S. PETTITT helped found this blawg. A D.C.-based IT consultant specializing in Lotus Notes & Domino, he also maintains Lotus Guru blog.

« An Endangered Species Act Glossary | Main| Plants only partly protected by ESA »

FWS proposes listing of Hawaiian plant, Phyllostegia hispida, and requests public comments.

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73 Fed. Reg. 9078 (Feb. 19, 2008)(Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing Phyllostegia hispida (No Common Name) as Endangered Throughout Its Range)

Click here for a fact sheet from the State of Hawaii

Click here for photos of Phyllostegia

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to list Phyllostegia hispida (no common name), a plant species from the island of Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). If we finalize this rule as proposed, it would extend the Act’s protections to this species. We have determined that critical habitat for Phyllostegia hispida is prudent but not determinable at this time.  We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before April 21, 2008. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, by April 4, 2008.

COMMENTARY: As the analysis in the Federal Register demonstrates, this species has repeatedly been thought extirpated in the wild, but new populations are occasionally found.  Currently, 33 plants are thought to exist in the wild, and there is only one plant known to exist in the wild that is reproductively mature.

FOLLOWING UP:
  • "One tiny, tiny, tiny step for endangered species," from Plenty Magazine online.

ADDITIONAL TEXT FROM FWS FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICE:

"Phyllostegia hispida was first described by William Hillebrand in 1870 from a specimen collected from an area that he described as the ‘‘heights of Mapulehu’’ on the island of Molokai (Wagner, et al. 2005), and is recognized as a distinct taxon in Wagner, et al. (1999, pp. 817–819). Wagner, et al. describes the plant as a non-aromatic member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). P. hispida is described as a loosely spreading, many-branched vine that often forms large tangled masses. Leaves are thin and flaccid with hispid hairs and glands. The leaf margins are irregularly and shallowly lobed. Six to eight white flowers make up each verticillaster (a false whorl, composed of a pair of nearly sessile cymes in the axils of opposite leaves or bracts), and nutlets are approximately 0.1 in (2.5 millimeters (mm)) long (Wagner, et al. 1999, pp. 817–819). No life history information is currently available on this species…

Surveys have been conducted in the wet forests of east Molokai over the years, but failed to locate additional Phyllostegia hispida plants. The species was thought to have been extirpated from the wild until 2005, when two seedlings were found in a Hanalilolilo stream bank in Kamakou Preserve, indicating the possible presence of a mature plant, or plants, somewhere in the vicinity (TNCH 1997b, pp. 1–19; S.Perlman, pers. comm. 2005; S. Perlman and K. Wood, pers. comms. 2006). One of the seedlings was collected by a botanist with HBMP and provided to Lyon Arboretum in Honolulu, which in turn provided it to KNHP on Molokai for attempted propagation. That plant has since died (G. Hughes and Bill Garnett, KNHP, pers. comms. 2006). The other seedling was collected by a botanist with NTBG. Cuttings were propagated from this seedling and provided to KNHP for growing out...

Phyllostegia hispida was again thought to be extirpated from the wild until a single juvenile plant was discovered in May 2006 within the Puu Alii NAR along the Puu Alii fenceline at 4,100 ft (1,250 m) elevation (S. Perlman, pers. comm. 2006). Although protected within a 10-ft (3-m) diameter fenced exclosure (Bryan Stevens, Maui DOFAW, pers. comm. 2006), that individual has died for unknown reasons (H. Oppenheimer, Maui Plant Extinction Prevention Program (PEP), pers. comm. 2007). However, 10 new wild plants were discovered within the Puu Alii NAR in April 2007; although most are seedlings, one of these individuals is mature and has fruited and produced seeds (H. Oppenheimer, pers. comm. 2007). Seeds were collected from the mature plant and sent to the Lyon Arboretum, and cuttings were taken from some of the other plants for propagation...

In addition to the newly identified wild plants, 12 of the cuttings that were grown out at KNHP were outplanted into an enclosure in TNCH’s Kamakou Preserve in April 2007, and 11 of these were still doing well as of June 2007. Another 12 were outplanted into a second enclosure in Kamakou Preserve in June 2007 (H. Oppenheimer, pers. comm. 2007), bringing the total number of Phyllostegia hispida plants in the wild to 10 naturally occurring and 23 recently outplanted individuals...

We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and future threats to Phyllostegia hispida. The species’ extremely low numbers and highly restricted geographic range make it particularly susceptible to extinction at any time from random events such as hurricanes. There is only one plant known to exist in the wild that is reproductively mature. Although several individuals have recently been outplanted, no outplanting effort for this species has yet been successful. Therefore, the future of these propagated individuals is highly uncertain. Although the species is found on protected lands, it nonetheless faces immediate and continuing threats from habitat destruction and degradation due to feral pig activity, competition with nonnative plant species, and predation by nonnative mammals, as well as the threat of extinction at any time from a random stochastic event such as a hurricane."