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Torreya taxifolia

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA PINOPSIDA PINALES TAXACEAE

Scientific Name: Torreya taxifolia
Species Authority: Arn.
Common Name(s):
English Florida Nutmeg Tree, Gopherwood, Florida Torreya, Stinking Cedar

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2ace ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2010-08-10
Assessor(s): Spector, T., Determann, R. & Gardner, M.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P. & Farjon, A.
Justification:
The estimated 98% decline in mature individuals within the last three generations means that Torreya taxifolia meets the criteria for Critically Endangered under Criterion A2. The actual causes of the decline (the death of individuals and the reproductive failure associated with infection from a range of pathogens) is not well understood: recent surveys indicate it is continuing. The decline may be reversible in the future if those causes can be identified and controlled.
History:
2000 Critically Endangered
1998 Critically Endangered (Oldfield et al. 1998)
1998 Critically Endangered
1997 Endangered (Walter and Gillett 1998)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Restricted to a few ravines along the east side of the Appalachicola River in northern Florida and southern Georgia. Its total extent of occurrence is estimated to be about 200 km2 with an area of occupancy under 50 km2.
Countries:
Native:
United States (Florida, Georgia)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The current population is estimated to be between 500 and 600 trees. Of these, less than 10 are known to produce male or female cones (this species is dioecious). Individuals persist as stump sprouts. Before the start of the decline in the early 1950s, the population was estimated to have been more than 600,000. Since then there has been a decline of more than 98%.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Torreya taxifolia occurs along limestone bluffs on the Appalachicola River in a region with a warm and humid climate, occasionally influenced in winter by cold waves from the north that dip temperatures below the freezing point. It grows mostly in the shade of wooded ravines and steep, N-facing slopes under canopy of Fagus grandifolia, Liriodendron tulipifera, Acer barbatumLiquidambar styraciflua, Quercus alba, and occasionally pines (Pinus taeda, P. glabra). Often these woods are hung with vines (e.g. Smilax spp., Bignonia capreolata). Another rare conifer, Taxus floridana, occasionally grows with Torreya taxifolia.
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In the 20th century Florida torreya was extensively harvested for construction material, river boat fuel and for use as Christmas trees. After 1950, it became too rare to be utilised.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The most significant current threat to T. taxifolia is the continued reproductive failure associated with fungal pathogens. Individuals do not reach reproductive size before being top-killed. Recent research has identified a previously unknown species of Fusarium that may be the cause (J.A. Smith pers. comm. September 2010). Rubbing by deer is an additional problem as it causes physical damage and may also be a vector for disease transmission. Changes in landuse and fire regimes in surrounding areas along with changes in hydrology and soil chemistry linked to the construction of dams may also be implicated in its historical decline. Augmentation plantings within the natural range have proved to  be susceptible to infection: no naturally resistant clones have been identified to date. Population viability analyses indicate that extinction within its native range is inevitable.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Torreya taxifolia has been the focus of extensive conservation interventions. The majority of its range lies within protected areas. Regular census' are carried out to monitor the state of the remaining trees. An ex-situ programme was initiated in the 1980s and clonal collections have since been established in several areas away from its native habitat. Some reintroduction work has been attempted within its natural range but this has not been successful to date. Various research programmes have been initiated to identify the causal agent of its decline: these are ongoing. T. taxifolia was listed as federally Endangered by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1984. A recovery plan was formulated in 1986 and has recently been reviewed and updated (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2010).

Citation: Spector, T., Determann, R. & Gardner, M. 2011. Torreya taxifolia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 21 September 2014.
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