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Astrophytum asterias

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA MAGNOLIOPSIDA CARYOPHYLLALES CACTACEAE

Scientific Name: Astrophytum asterias
Species Authority: (Zucc.) Lem.
Common Name(s):
English Sand Dollar Cactus, Star Cactus, Seaurchin Starcactus, Star Peyote
Spanish Biznaga-algononcillo de Estrella
Synonym(s):
Echinocactus asterias Zucc.
Taxonomic Notes: Accepted as a valid species by cactus specialists Anderson (2001) and Hunt (1999).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable B1ab(ii,iii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2009-11-19
Assessor(s): Hernández, H.M., Smith, M., Terry, M., Fitz Maurice, W.A. & Fitz Maurice, B
Reviewer(s): Chanson, J.S. & Goettsch, B.K.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Hilton-Taylor, C.
Justification:
This species qualifies as Vulnerable due to its extent of occurrence being approximately 17,000 km2 and its severely fragmented populations.  Additionally, there is a continuing decline in the area of occupancy, in the extent and quality of habitat, and in the number of mature individuals due to a wide range of threats.

The population size appears to be fairly small with an estimated 5,000 mature individuals. However, its extensive range with many suitable habitats, which has largely been unstudied (because of restricted access to private land), particularly in northern Mexico, suggests that estimates of population size are probably low. Future studies may well show this plant to be more abundant than presently believed. If further subpopulations are found, this may change the area of occupancy and hence this species will need to be reassessed.
History:
2002 Vulnerable

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is distributed in Texas, United States and in Tamaulipas and Nuevo León, Mexico. This species occurs below 500 m asl, with most records being below 200 m asl.
Countries:
Native:
Mexico (Nuevo León, Tamaulipas); United States (Texas)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The total population is estimated to number more than 5,000 plants from known localities in both countries (NatureServe 2002).  However, the population is highly fragmented and impacted by agricultural expansion. Several localities are known in Mexico, both north and south of Ciudad Victoria (Hernández and Gómez-Hinostrosa 2011). A genetic study of plants from five locations showed different results,  from one location indicated inbreeding, but the other locations had high heterozygosity.  Seeds from populations with high heterozygosity would be viable for use in restoration projects (Terry et al. 2012). At present there are at least five subpopulations known from south-central Star County in Texas (it occurs on at least 15 ranches where access has been granted but probably occurs in others).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species inhabits Tamaulipan thorn scrub and grasslands, where it is often found growing in gravelly, sometimes saline or calcareous, clays or loams in the partial shade of other plants or rocks (NatureServe 2002).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is targeted for collection as an ornamental.  There are records of collectors from Japan, Germany and Czech Republic removing plants from the wild and mailing them home.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threats for this species are illegal collection, overgrazing, agriculture and cattle ranching. This species' habitat is fragmented due to root ploughing for agricultural and pasture land. This species is threatened by competition from the invasive buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris). There is herbivory by ground squirrels (Spermophilous spp.) and cotton-tail rabbits (Sylvilagus spp.) and general uprooting by hogs (porcines). The larvae of Cerambycidae beetles are known to eat and kill the plant.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on CITES Appendix I, but the laws governing imports in the countries of destination need to be enforced. This species is widely propagated. In the U.S. the species was recorded from two National Wildlife Refuges - Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR and Santa Ana NWR, but it seems to have been lost from both those places. The Nature Conservancy bought some land to conserve a subpopulation of the species - Las Asterias.  The status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act is Endangered.
This species is legally protected in Mexico by the national list of species at risk of exisinction, NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, where it is listed under category “at risk of extinction” (P; SEMARNAT 2010).

 


Citation: Hernández, H.M., Smith, M., Terry, M., Fitz Maurice, W.A. & Fitz Maurice, B 2013. Astrophytum asterias. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 01 October 2014.
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