Aethionema retsina 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Capparales Brassicaceae

Scientific Name: Aethionema retsina Phitos & Snogerup

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(iii,v)+2ab(iii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2006
Date Assessed: 2006-01-31
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Iatroú, G.
Reviewer(s): Strahm, W. & de Montmollin, B. (Mediterranean Island Plants Red List Authority)
The area in which this species occurs is extremely small and severely fragmented. There is continuing decline due to severe grazing pressure from increasing flocks of goats especially during the flowering and fruiting stages.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is only known to occur on two Greek islands (the island of Skiros, and the northern part of the much smaller island of Skiropoula, situated just southwest of Skiros). Three subpopulations are known, most notably on the northeast facing cliffs of Mt. Kochilas and some cliffs at Cape Korakia.
Countries occurrence:
Greece (East Aegean Is.)
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Three subpopulations are known.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The shrubby perennial is normally found within half a kilometre of the seashore on vertical limestone, 10-200 m above sea level, preferring small crevices and shady habitats.

This species was not discovered until 1969 and officially described in 1973. It is typical of the specialist plant community adapted to grow in the rocky cracks of seashore cliffs. The plant is fleshy, which is an ecological adaptation to salt spray and common in many seashore plants. Scientists have been undertaking crossbreeding experiments with A. retsina and other members of the same family, including plants of enormous agricultural importance such as cabbage, canola and mustard. Scientists are particularly interested in this species' chromosome set and how it relates to that of the cultivated species. One future application could be to genetically improve closely related cultivated species with properties (e.g., salt tolerance and drought resistance) found in A. retsina.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There is severe grazing pressure from increasing flocks of goats especially during the flowering and fruiting stages.

Due to the small size of the islands, shepherds do not need to fence the territory to keep their herds together, and goats have free access to all parts of the islands. All plants without any efficient grazing protection (e.g., spines, etc.) are under pressure. A. retsina is selectively eaten by goats because of its high nutritional value. Another potential threat is limestone quarrying which is very common in the region. This species might easily become extinct at any of the sites where it occurs if stone quarrying starts.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Actions in Place
Legally: This species is not included in any international conventions or national legislation. Due to bureaucratic problems, it has not even been included in the list of Greek species in the “Natura 2000” list.

In situ: No measures taken as of yet.

Ex situ: The Botanic Gardens of Copenhagen (Denmark) and of Lund University (Sweden) have some specimens of this plant in cultivation. However, these by no means represent this species' entire gene pool as seeds have only been collected from very few plants.

Actions Needed
The priority should be to protect the species from grazing. The areas where it grows should be fenced and managed to keep grazing animals out. Both the large northeast facing cliffs of Mt. Kochilas and the north facing cliffs of the island of Skiropoula should be designated as reserves. Stone quarrying in the species habitat and wild collection of this plant should be prohibited. A. retsina is easy to cultivate and has a high potential as an ornamental plant. It should be propagated and planted in other suitable shaded rocky sites, following IUCN SSC re-introduction guidelines which include guidance on benign introductions.

Errata [top]

Errata reason: Errata assessment produced to correct misspelling of the Assessor name.

Citation: Iatroú, G. 2006. Aethionema retsina (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2006: e.T61628A102995207. . Downloaded on 22 May 2018.
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