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Helichrysum melitense

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA MAGNOLIOPSIDA ASTERALES COMPOSITAE

Scientific Name: Helichrysum melitense
Species Authority: (Pignatti) Brullo, Lanfranco, Pavone & Ronsisvalle
Common Name(s):
English Maltese Everlasting

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2006
Date Assessed: 2006-01-31
Assessor(s): Stevens, D. & Lanfranco, E.
Reviewer(s): Strahm, W. & de Montmollin, B. (Mediterranean Island Plants Red List Authority)
Justification:
Only one subpopulation of a few thousand individuals remains on Gozo and Fungus rock, covering an area of less than 25 km². While the numbers of individuals growing on the inaccessible cliffs seem to be stable, there is a decline on the more accessible plateau.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is restricted to the western cliffs of the island of Gozo and Fungus Rock Nature Reserve. It is probably extinct on the island of Malta.
Countries:
Native:
Malta
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Only one subpopulation of a few thousand individuals remains.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: H. melitense has a patchy distribution and mainly grows on intact limestone coastal cliffs and scree, preferring full sun. Occasionally it may also be found along the more accessible plateau on top of the cliffs.

This low shrub is very ornamental and could be cultivated. Several other Helichrysum species are used to cure asthma and rheumatism, but there is no evidence of this species being used for medicinal purposes.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Cliff habitats are endangered or have already collapsed due to pressure waves from the explosions of nearby limestone quarrying. To a lesser extent, dust from the quarries may also pose a threat. Regeneration of this species is low, possibly due to insects eating the seeds, which jeopardizes the re-establishment of this species where it was once found. Introduced alien plant species pose serious problems, especially Opuntia ficus-indica, Agave americana and Carpobrotus edulis, which are colonizing the cliffs.

Urbanization and tourism are dramatically increasing in this species' habitat on the plateau. Other threats include wild collection for ornamental purposes as well as the recent construction of kiosks and boat-houses near the shore.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Actions in Place
Legally: Internationally this species is listed in Appendix I of the Bern Convention and in Annexes II and IV of the Habitats Directive since Malta’s EU adhesion in May 2004. On the national level, it is protected by the Flora and Fauna Protection Regulations of 1993. Part of the cliffs of Gozo is protected locally as Special Areas of Conservation. Fungus Rock ((il-Gebla tal-General) is a Strict Nature Reserve. Access is forbidden, valid scientific reasons excepted.

In situ: An action plan for this species has been drafted by the Environment Protection Directorate of Malta. The species as well as parts of its habitat are locally protected by Malta’s Environment Protection Act and Development Planning Act, which for instance restricts planting of certain alien species in certain zones. A management plan is being drafted for a key site for this species, namely the Qawra-Dwejra Special Area of Conservation on western Gozo.

Ex situ: Some cuttings collected from Dwejra (western Gozo) were planted at the University of Malta’s botanical garden for ex situ conservation and ornamental purposes. H. melitense has been propagated at the Plant Biotechnology Centre, using micropropagation techniques as part of a joint research programme with the Department of Biology of the University of Malta.

Actions Needed
Legal protection of all those parts of the cliffs on Gozo supporting the species is desirable. Legal protection (e.g. against illegal dumping) must be strengthened to protect this species and its habitat. A management plan for the western cliffs on Gozo is needed and it should include the requirements of Natura 2000, to attain sustainable tourism in the area. Efforts should be made to re-introduce the species on the main island of Malta, and ex situ propagation for ornamental purposes should be encouraged. More studies are needed to monitor the decline of the specimens on the plateau.

Citation: Stevens, D. & Lanfranco, E. 2006. Helichrysum melitense. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 22 October 2014.
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