Atriplex lanfrancoi 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Caryophyllales Chenopodiaceae

Scientific Name: Atriplex lanfrancoi (Brullo & Pavone) G.Kadereit & Sukhor.
Common Name(s):
English Maltese Cliff Orache
Cremnophyton lanfrancoi Brullo & Pavone
Taxonomic Source(s): Kadereit, G., Mavrodiev, E.V., Zacharias, E.H. and Sukhorukov, A.P. 2010. Molecular phylogeny of Atripliceae (Chenopodioideae, Chenopodiaceae): Implications for systematics, biogeography, flower and fruit evolution, and the origin of C4 photosynthesis. American Journal of Botany 97(10): 1664-87: 10.3732/ajb.1000169.
Taxonomic Notes: This species was moved from genus Cremnophyton to Atriplex following The Plant List (2016).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2006-02-01
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Lanfranco, E. & Stevens, D.T.
Reviewer(s): Strahm, W. & de Montmollin, B.
This species grows over a very small area (covering less than 100 km²), the remaining population is severely fragmented, and the area where it grows, quality of its habitat, and number of individuals is predicted to decline unless increased conservation measures are taken. The total wild population is estimated at several thousands, but has not been counted. Some subpopulations have probably disappeared, such as those along the cliffs of the San Pawl il-Bahar-Mistra area on north-eastern Malta.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is restricted to the islands of Malta and Gozo (including Fungus Rock). It is rarer than Cheirolophus crassifolius (another listed species) and has a similar, but patchier distribution.
Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The total wild population is estimated at several thousands, but has not been counted. Some subpopulations have probably disappeared, such as those along the cliffs of the San Pawl il-Bahar-Mistra area on north-eastern Malta.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This woody shrub grows on sheer seaside cliffs along the northwestern and southern cliffs of the islands of Malta and Gozo, including Fungus Rock.

This species has several traits considered ancient in an evolutionary sense, such as an unusual chromosome number (10), and an ecological preference for rock crevice habitats. Like other Maltese endemics, it probably represents a relict element of the old Tertiary flora. Cremnophyton lanfrancoi was described in 1987 and was the only species in that genus, but has since been transferred to Atriplex. It had long been confused with Halimione portulacoides, a plant of saline marshlands and dunes (not cliffs) also found on Malta.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Very low regeneration has been observed, probably due to an insect (Eurytoma sp.) that feeds on the seeds. All wild plants tested were infected by an as yet unidentified fungus that apparently limits reproductive capacity (note that laboratory plants free of the fungus are easy to propagate by cuttings). In its natural habitat, the species is also gradually being replaced by invasive alien plants, particularly Agave americana, Carpobrotus edulis and Opuntia ficus-indica.

Cliff habitats are endangered or have already collapsed due to pressure waves from the explosions of nearby limestone quarrying. Dust pollution from quarrying seems to be a minor problem. A number of subpopulations are directly threatened by dumping of tar and wastes, a crime difficult to control.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Actions in Place
Legally: Internationally, this species is listed (as Cremnophyton lanfrnacoi) in Appendix I of the Bern Convention and since Malta’s EU adhesion in May 2004 in Annex II and IV of the Habitats Directive. On the national level, it is protected by the Flora and Fauna Protection Regulations of 1993 and the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations of 2003.

All cliffs of the island of Malta and several of Gozo are locally protected, either as Sites of Scientific Importance, Areas of Ecological Importance or Special Areas of Conservation. Fungus Rock ((il-Gebla tal-General), which is located slightly off-shore of the western cliffs of Gozo, is also a Strict Nature Reserve. Access is forbidden, valid scientific reasons excepted.

In situ: Management plans are being drafted for a number of sites, including the Qawra-Dwejra Special Area of Conservation (western Gozo).

Ex situ: This species has been propagated by laboratory methods with great success and is available to nurseries and gardeners.

Actions Needed
It is particularly important to protect more cliffs on Gozo because of their ecological importance. The most efficient conservation action needed is habitat protection and management. Law enforcement should be strengthened, especially, over illegal dumping, collection of wild specimens and the introduction of alien species on the easily accessible plateau. More research is needed to identify the factors responsible for this species' population decline and habitat fragmentation.

Citation: Lanfranco, E. & Stevens, D.T. 2016. Atriplex lanfrancoi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T61645A103727282. . Downloaded on 19 November 2017.
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