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Conocarpus erectus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA MAGNOLIOPSIDA MYRTALES COMBRETACEAE

Scientific Name: Conocarpus erectus
Species Authority: L.
Common Name(s):
English Silver-leaved Buttonwood

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2007-03-21
Assessor(s): Ellison, A., Farnsworth, E. & Moore, G.
Reviewer(s): Polidoro, B.A., Livingstone, S.R. & Carpenter, K.E. (Global Marine Species Assessment Coordinating Team)
Justification:
This species is widespread and tolerant of a variety of habitats. Relative to the other mangrove species within the wider Caribbean, the conservation status of this species appears to be more stable. However, this species is threatened by the loss of mangrove habitat throughout its range, primarily due to extraction and coastal development, and there has been an estimated 17% decline in mangrove area within this species range since 1980. Mangrove species are more at risk from coastal development and extraction at the extremes of their distribution, and are likely to be contracting in these areas more than in other areas. It is also likely that changes in climate due to global warming will further affect these parts of the range. Although there are overall range declines in many areas, they are not enough to reach any of the threatened category thresholds. This species is listed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is widely distributed in coastal communities in tropical America and West Africa (Tomlinson 1986). It can be found throughout Florida and to the Bahamas and West Indies south to Brazil. In the Eastern Pacific, it is present in Mexico through Central America to Ecuador and the Galapagos. It is also found in West Africa (Howard 1989). It was introduced in Hawaii, where it may possibly be invasive (Allen 1998, Chimner et al. 2006).

The distribution of this species throughout the south mid-Atlantic Islands should be confirmed.
Countries:
Native:
Angola (Angola); Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Benin; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Saba, Sint Eustatius); Brazil; Cameroon; Cayman Islands; Colombia; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Costa Rica; Côte d'Ivoire; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Equatorial Guinea; France; French Guiana; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Liberia; Martinique; Mauritania; Mexico; Montserrat; Netherlands Antilles (Bonaire); Nicaragua; Nigeria; Panama; Peru; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sao Tomé and Principe; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Suriname; Togo; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; United States Minor Outlying Islands; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Virgin Islands, British
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Atlantic – eastern central; Atlantic – southeast; Atlantic – southwest; Atlantic – western central; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – southeast
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Although there is no species specific population information, it can be assumed that there are areas of population decline throughout its range due to coastal development. However, this species is considered somewhat weedy in southern Florida (Tomlinson 1986).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species typically grows in the intertidal regions of sheltered tropical and subtropical coasts (Saenger 2002) restricted in areas where the salinity does not exceed 10 g/kg (Chen and Twilley 1999). This species is considered a shrub or tree, growing to 1.5 - 10 m. Growth habit is prostrate in rocky or sandy habitats and erect elsewhere (Howard 1989). This species may demonstrate plasticity in leaf size/shape in response to wind sheer, having most 'streamlined' leaf when compared to the common western mangroves (red, black, and white) making it resilient to high winds (Barrera and Walter 2006).

This species includes ever-growing shrubs to small trees with no protected terminal buds, thus requiring dormancy in winter (e.g. south Florida populations) (Tomlinson 1986). Flowering and fruiting are continuous throughout the year (Hernandez and Espino 1999). C. erectus has non-viviparous seeds which float and can be dispersed by water. Seed production is high but many are aborted or do not germinate (Tomlinson 1986). Seed viability is shown to be <12% (Hernandez and Espino 1999). The stems can sprout vegetatively (post hurricane) but experimental rooting success of cuttings was shown to be limited (Benitez-Pardo et al. 2002).

This species provides habitat for a number of species including crabs and also bald eagles (Curnutt and Robertson 1994). As an integral component of most western mangrove assemblages, C. erectus helps buffer the upper edge of highly valuable intertidal mangrove habitats, thus helping to maintain critical habitat.
Systems: Terrestrial; Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is exploited for rudimentary construction, fuelwood and clearing for usable land (Ellison and Farnsworth 1996; Hernandez and Espino 1999). The wood is hard and slow-burning, ideal for fuelwood (Howard 1989) and cooking because the smoke has mesquite-like odour.
Varietals have been cultivated for horticultural purposes (Tomlinson 1986, Howard 1989, Alvarez-Leon 2003).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although local estimates are uncertain due to differing legislative definitions of what is a 'mangrove' and to the imprecision in determining mangrove area, current consensus estimates of mangrove loss in the last quarter-century report an approximately 17% decline in mangrove areas in countries within this species range since 1980 (FAO, 2007).

All mangrove ecosystems occur within mean sea level and high tidal elevations, and have distinct species zonations that are controlled by the elevation of the substrate relative to mean sea level. This is because of associated variation in frequency of elevation, salinity and wave action (Duke et al. 1998). With rise in sea-level, the habitat requirements of each species will be disrupted, and species zones will suffer mortality at their present locations and re-establish at higher elevations in areas that were previously landward zones (Ellison 2005). If sea-level rise is a continued trend over this century, then there will be continued mortality and re-establishment of species zones. However, species that are easily dispersed and fast growing/fast producing will cope better than those which are slower growing and slower to reproduce.

In addition, mangrove area is declining globally due to a number of localized threats. The main threat is habitat destruction and removal of mangrove areas. Reasons for removal include cleared for shrimp farms, agriculture, fish ponds, rice production and salt pans, and for the development of urban and industrial areas, road construction, coconut plantations, ports, airports, and tourist resorts. Other threats include pollution from sewage effluents, solid wastes, siltation, oil, and agricultural and urban runoff. Climate change is also thought to be a threat, particularly at the edges of a species range. Natural threats include cyclones, hurricane and tsunamis.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no conservation measures specific to this species, but its range may include some marine and coastal protected areas. Continued monitoring and research is recommended, as well as the inclusion of mangrove areas in marine and coastal protected areas. Relative to the other mangrove species within the wider Caribbean, the conservation status of this species appears to be stable.

Recommended conservation measures for this species include more research on population sizes. Conocarpus erectus's range is well established but updates to population sizes, fluctuations or losses need to be continued. It is recommended to expand GIS mapping and remote sensing projects (e.g. Cohen and Lara 2003) and regional scale habitat mapping (e.g. Layman et al. 2006). Demographic modeling could be useful: research is needed to establish a minimum viable population size for the taxon, as past and present exploitative uses threaten to exert continued impacts throughout its range. Continued studies of post-hurricane recovery, restoration performance, in particular restoration of multispecies complexes and mangrove associates, are needed. The value of this mangrove upper boundary species to the protection/buffering of intertidal mangroves from land-based impacts should be better articulated in the literature.

Citation: Ellison, A., Farnsworth, E. & Moore, G. 2010. Conocarpus erectus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 29 July 2014.
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