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Aquilaria rostrata

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA MAGNOLIOPSIDA MYRTALES THYMELAEACEAE

Scientific Name: Aquilaria rostrata
Species Authority: Ridley
Taxonomic Notes: The species taxonomic status is doubtful. It is similar to A. malaccensis Lam. but the specimen material is too poor to verify the floral characters.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2009-11-02
Assessor(s): Lim, T.W.
Reviewer(s): Hilton-Taylor, C. & Lutz, M.L.
Justification:
Aquilaria, as the main agarwood-producing genus, is likely to be particularly affected by unsustainable resin collection.  Aquilaria rostrata, the only agarwood-producing species thought to be endemic to Malaysia, was listed as “Data Deficient (DD)”. This assessment was made by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) using the IUCN criteria (ver. 2.3) and on data collection forms for endemic trees of Peninsular Malaysia completed by Chua et al. (1997). The assessors decided that there was insufficient information to make an assessment, noting that: “The species’ taxonomic status is doubtful. It is similar to A. malaccensis but the specimen material is too poor to verify the floral characters” (Oldfield et al. 1998).

In 2007, the Malaysian population of Aquilaria malaccensis was evaluated to be Vulnerable (VU A4c) (Chua 2008). Furthermore, a recent study has found that illegal agarwood collection is widespread in Malaysia (Lim and Awang Anak 2009).  Therefore it is necessary to re-evaluate the status of Aquilaria rostrata and determine whether new information is available that would justify assigning a threatened status to the species. The present version of the IUCN Red List Criteria (ver. 3.1) note that “it is important to recognize that taxa that are poorly known can often be assigned a threat category on the basis of background information concerning the deterioration of their habitat and/or other causal factors; … If the range of a taxon is suspected to be relatively circumscribed, and a considerable period of time has elapsed since the last record of the taxon, threatened status may well be justified” (IUCN 2001).

This poorly known tree is confined to a single location in the State of Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia. Although it is only known from type material collected in 1911, given the known threats to other Aquilaria species, it seems highly probable that this species is very threatened. It is therefore listed as Critically Endangered based on its extent of occurrence being almost certainly well less than 100 km², it is a single location and there is projected continuing decline in the number of mature individuals given the demand for agarwood. Attempts are required to relocate this species in the wild and to assess its status properly; it may well already be extinct.
History:
1998 Data Deficient
1997 Vulnerable (Walter and Gillett 1998)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is known only from one locality in Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia: Wray’s Camp, Gunung Tahan (898 m a.s.l.; 4˚39'N 102˚14'E).
Countries:
Native:
Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The species is only known from the type material collected in July 1911 – no other collections of this species are on record.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species inhabits subtropical/tropical moist lowland forest.
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Aquilaria spp. are known to produce a variety of resins in response to trauma or infection (Ridley 1901, Blanchette and Heuveling van Beek 2001). The resins most commonly impregnate xylem tissue and form a product commonly known as agarwood, aloeswood, eaglewood and paradise wood. Agarwood resins are characterized by a complex mixture of terpenes and chromone derivatives which emit a strong fragrance when heated or burned (Varma et al. 1965, Konishi et al. 2002). Agarwood has thus been exploited for perfumery and is also used in traditional medicine as lignum aquilariae resinatum.  However, in recent years, increasing global demand, coupled with habitat loss, has led to concerns that unregulated collection of the resin is threatening the survival of agarwood-producing species in the wild (Chakrabarty et al. 1994, Barden et al. 2000).  

Malaysia is one of the top producers of agarwood and its derivatives, including oil, joss sticks and medicine (Lim and Awang Anak in prep.). Agarwood has probably been exported from the Malaysian region since prehistoric times when the first outside traders arrived (Dunn 1975, Chin 1985, Dube 2006).  The first of these traders are believed to have come from the Indian subcontinent and brought the Sanskrit word aguru that is now the main term used for agarwood throughout the region (spelling variations include aquaru, agaru, garu, garo, gharu, gěharu and the now standard Malaysian spelling, gaharu).  Today, the main markets for Malaysian agarwood are in the Middle East and East Asia (Lim and Awang Anak in prep.).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although the threats to this particular species are not known, it is known that some agarwood collection practices are believed to be destructive and lead to a decline in the number of mature individuals, at least in the short term (Bland 1886, Mah et al. 1983, Chin 1985, Gianno 1986, Brookfield et al. 1995). Seven of the agarwood-producing species found in Malaysia are listed as being “Vulnerable (VU)” to extinction globally (IUCN 2009).  The conservation status of 11 species has yet to be assessed. It is likely that this species is being impacted by over-exploitation.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The known range is entirely within the Taman Negara National Park.  Attempts are required to relocate this species.

Citation: Lim, T.W. 2012. Aquilaria rostrata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 16 September 2014.
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