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St. Eustatius Orchid Conservation Project

By: Lindsay Galway

1. General information
1.1 Introduction
Protecting and conserving the orchids of St. Eustatius is a goal of the National Parks on the island. Several of the populations present on the island are rare while others are subject to herbivory, environmental changes and human interference. To ensure the continued persistence of these species, St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation (STENAPA) is working in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico to establish and carry out the St. Eustatius Orchid Conservation Project. The general goals of this project are to attain greater knowledge regarding the various orchid species on the island and to design and promote appropriate conservation measures.

In order to accomplish these goal, steps must be taken to determine which orchid species are present on the island, the size and distribution of select orchid species, the viability of these orchids and those factors which influence and ultimately determine population dynamics and persistence.



1.2 Why Orchids?
There are numerous reasons why orchids have been chosen as a focus of STENAPA. These reasons are listed below;


  1. The health and viability of the orchid populations on the island is unknown.

  2. There is a lack of knowledge with regards to the biology and ecology of orchids on St. Eustatius.

  3. Orchids can be used as an indicator group to examine disturbed and undisturbed environments on the island.

  4. The orchid species that have been recorded on St. Eustatius are fully protected by the Island Ordinance (1997) for Protection of Fauna and Flora. (See appendix 1)

  5. Orchids can be used as a tool in conservation issues such as land disputes and policy making.

  6. Orchids can be used in the promotion of tourism and to inspire visits to the Quill and Boven National Parks.


1.3 Project Objectives
General aim:

To protect and conserve the orchid populations of St. Eustatius.




Specific objectives:
The specific goals of the St. Eustatius Orchid Conservation Project are noted below. These nine objectives are to be carried out over a period of several years by the National Parks ranger, the National Parks interns, volunteers and researchers from the University of Puerto Rico.
Phase1 – Baseline Information


    1. Complete an inventory of the orchid species in both the Quill and Boven sub-sectors of the National Park. (To be completed at different times of the year corresponding to flowering times in the different park areas).

    2. Create maps for each species denoting the location and distribution of orchid populations within the National Park.

    3. Gain knowledge regarding the local phenology of the orchid species.


Phase 2 – Population Viability and Conservation


  1. Determine the most appropriate methods for baseline population distribution and viability studies of select orchid species.

  2. Carry out population distribution and viability studies of select orchid species.


Phase 3 – Education and Public Awareness


  1. Outline the most appropriate conservation efforts for select species.

  2. Create and develop educational resources to be made available to general public.

  3. Promote the B. cucullata orchid as a tourist attraction and a keystone species for STENAPA.

  4. Develop partnership with the University of Puerto Rico


1.4 Current Update
As of July 2008, an inventory and map has been completed for the Boven sub-sector (phase 1.1 and 1.2) and a great deal of knowledge has been gained with regards to the local phenology of the orchid species found in the Boven sub-sector of the Parks (phase 1.3). We now know much more about the preferred habitats and phorophytes, flowering times, likely pollinators and health of the orchids of St. Eustatius.

In addition to this, several sampling methods have been tried in order to determine the most appropriate sampling methods for further studies and have gained experience in doing so (phase 2.1).

Furthermore, a longterm study of B. cucullata has been initiated and will be continued over several years. Tagging of individuals for this part of the project will begin in September 2008. This study will provide useful information regarding reproductive success, evolutionary genetics and conservation issues for this species.

2. St. Eustatius Orchid Conservation Project: Orchid Inventory of Boven Sub-sector



2.1 Introduction
An inventory of orchid species is the first step towards further knowledge regarding population dynamics and the long-term viability of these plants. Ultimately, this knowledge can be used to determine appropriate conservation measures.

The current list of orchid species present on St. Eustatius was made in 1996 by an orchid enthusiast and former President of STENAPA, Jan Faber (see appendix 2). This list, which was used as the basis for the 1997 island ordinance to protect orchids, is outdated and therefore needs to be re-assessed. Furthermore, no additional information such as locality on the island or population sizes was documented.

Those species expected to be found on the island are the following:


  1. Brassavola cucullata

  2. Cyclopogon elatus (formerly Spiranthes elatus)

  3. Epidendrum anceps (formerly E. secundum))

  4. Epidendrum ciliare

  5. Epidendrum difforme

  6. Jacquinella globosa

  7. Liparis nervosa (reports may be erroneous)

  8. Mesadenus lucayanus

  9. Microchilus hirtellus (formerly Erythrodes hirtella)

  10. Microchilus plantagineus (formerly Erythrodes plantaginea)

  11. Polystachya concreta

  12. Psychilis correllii (formerly Epidendrum kraenzlinii)

  13. Tetramicra elegans (may be same species as Tetramicra canaliculata)

  14. Tolumnia urophylla

This list has been adapted from Jan Faber’s 1996 orchid species list based on communications with orchid biologists from the University of Puerto Rico, Jim Ackerman and Raymond Tremblay, botanists from the New York Botanical Garden and observations by Hannah Madden and Lindsay Galway.


2.2 Research questions
Primary questions


  1. Which orchid species exist in the Boven sub-sector of the St. Eustatius National Park?

  2. What is the distribution of these orchid species in the Boven sub-sector of the National Park?

  3. Using qualitative observations, are the orchid populations healthy?


Secondary questions


  1. When does each species flower? How long do they flower?

  2. What are the possible pollinators of each species?

  3. How common is herbivory? Is this a threat to orchid populations?


2.3 Methods
This inventory was carried out in the Boven sub-sector of the National Park during the months of May through July 2008. (In the winter months, similar methods will be used to examine the Quill Park). According to a vegetation study and map created by Stoffers (1956), (see appendix 4) the Boven Hills have been classified almost completely as somewhere between seasonal forest and dry evergreen. However, in reality there is a great deal of vegetation variety within these Northern hills. As such, we have to examine several of the distinct hills within the Northern hills separately. These are:
a. Boven Hill

b. Gilboa Hill

c. Little Mountain (Bergje)

d. Signal Hill



Image 1. Map of St. Eustatius with close-up of Boven sub-sector (googleearth.com)
Preliminary hikes were done to become more familiar with the environment and vegetation in the area. The following techniques were used to determine which specific areas to examine: a) knowledge of past existence of individuals b) speculation given the preference for certain habitat c) using satellite imagery to locate likely preferred habitats.
A total of 12 hikes were made to complete the orchid inventory of the orchids present in the Boven sub-sector (in addition to this, approximately 20 hikes were done in this area while doing other work. During these hikes we also looked for orchids).
Boven

  1. Main trail to peak - May 14th

  2. Northern side - June 1st

  3. Eastern side – June 23rd


Gilboa

  1. 1st,2nd, 3rd ridges – May 6th

  2. Main loop – May 6th

  3. North eastern cliffs – May 20th


Little Mountain (Bergje)

  1. Eastern face- June 3rd

  2. Ridge - June 18th

  3. Summit - June 13th


Signal Hill (subjected to Statia terminal permission)

  1. Main trail - May 20th

  2. Western cliffs – July 7th

  3. Peak - July 7th

All orchids found on the above noted hikes were documented. With the exception of the Little Mountain summit, orchids were found on every hike. When an orchid was located, a GPS position was taken and all orchids visible from that point were noted (see appendix 5 for field data recording sheet). Although it is certain that many individuals were not accounted for within a given population, the documented population size can give a general idea of the size of the population and can be used to determine which populations are best suited for further study. The following information was noted from each individual seen;


- Species

- Life stage



Seedling/Juvenile (S/J) = small plants that showed no evidence of past reproduction.

Non reproductive adults (NRA) = individual plants that were not currently flowering but which carried (or showed evidence of) past reproduction in the form of dried inflourescences).

Reproductive adult (A) = individuals with photosynthesising inflourescences.

- Phorophyte (a rock or tree with an orchid growing on it)

- Habitat description (slope, sun and wind exposure, orientation and elevation)

- Presence/evidence of herbivory

- Presence/evidence of possible pollinators
In addition to this, qualitative observations were made to infer the health of the orchid populations. The following points were considered.


    • Is there evidence of herbivory?

    • Are there seed pods?

    • Are there many seedlings/juveniles?

    • Are many older adult individuals?

    • Are the plants with flowers older (determined by the amount of leaves present)?

    • Are there habitat limitations/preferences?



2.4 Results
Of the 14 aforementioned orchids species expected to be found on the island, 6 species were located within the Boven sub-sector of the park;


  1. Brassavola cucullata

  2. Epidendrum ciliare

  3. Mesadenus lucayanus

  4. Psychilis correllii

  5. Tetramicra elegans

  6. Tolumnia urophylla

The remaining species prefer wetter and more humid conditions and therefore are most likely to be found in the Quill and on the crater rim. In the following pages, the 6 orchids found in the Boven sub-sector are described.

The information has been taken from; orchidspecies.com, Flora of the Lesser Antilles and field data and observations.

2.41 Brassavola Cucullata
Leaves: Numerous, thin needle shaped leaves. Fleshy and dark green in color. Leaves can be used to determine the approximate age of an individual as 1 (or 2) new shoots are produced each year.
Flower: Generally one to five flowers per individual. White and showy with a fragrance at night. Flower throughout the year, a single flower remaining for several months.
Habitat: On Statia the B. cucullata grows at an average elevation of 199m, with a minimum of 95m and a maximum of 253m. This species can be both epiphytic and lithophytic. It is found almost exclusively in shaded areas and the epiphytic individuals are commonly found on Mappoo trees.
Possible pollinator: The length of the nectar tube suggests that the pollinator

of this flower has a very long proboscis. This, as well as the white colour

of the flower suggests that the pollinator is a moth. A likely candidate

from the island is the Eumorphis vitis moth.


Location on Statia: Quite widespread on the island.

Abundant along whitewall trail in the Quill National

Park and as well as the peak of Boven.


Herbivory: Very few individuals showed any signs of herbivory. There may be some goat herbivory but this is not a significant threat to any of the meta- populations.


Image 3 B. cucullata (H. Madden) Image 4 B. cucullata seed pod & flower (H. Madden)



Map 1 B. cucullata distribution in Boven sub-sector





D
Table 1: B.cucullata field data
ATE


LOCATION

 

HABITAT

 

 

 

LIFE STAGE

 

GROWTH

PHOROPHYTE


R HERBIVORY

 

Name

GPS

Sun

Wind

Orientat.

Slope (°)

Elevation (m)

Seedling/

NR adult

Adult

 

 

 

 

 

Number

 

 

 

 

 

juvenile

 

 

 

 

 

May 6

Gilboa - ridges

OR3

2

1

W

15

175

0

1

0

Epiphyte

old dead tree

0

May 14

Boven- main trail

OR10

1

1

NW

0

240

0

1

0

lithophyte

rock

0

May 14

Boven- main trail

OR11

1

1

S

180

240

0

0

2

lithophyte

rock

0

May 20

Gilboa -northeastern Cllff

OR14

1

1

N

0

95

1

0

0

lithophyte

volcanic rock

0

May

20


Gilboa -northeastern Cllff

OR15

1

1

NE

180

105

0

0

1

lithophyte

volcanic rock

0

June 1



Boven-Northern side

OR22

1

1

NE

180

253

4

4

3

lithophyte

rock

2

June 1



Boven-Northern side

OR23

1

1

S

180

240

8

11

4

lithophyte

rock

0

June 1


Boven-Northern side

OR24

1

1

S

180

245

8

13

2

lithophyte

rock

0

July 9


Boven-peak

OR33

1

1

E

180

293

3

1

1

lithophyte/

epiphytes



volcanic rock/mappoo

1

July 9


Boven-peak

OR34

1

1

E

180

290

9

1

1

lithophytes/

epiphytes



volcanic rock/mappoo

0

July 9


Boven-peak

OR35

1

1

E

180

288

2

4

3

lithophytes/

epiphytes



volcanic rock/mappoo

1

July 9

Boven-peak

OR36

3

1

NE

180

331

1

0

0

lithophyte

volcanic rock

0






















Mean=

218.91

36

36

17








4






























Total plants=

89









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