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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
Synonym(s):
Cremnophyton lanfrancoi Brullo & Pavone
Taxonomic Source(s): The Plant List. 2016. The Plant List. Version 1.1. RBG Kew. Available at: http://www.theplantlist.org/.
Taxonomic Notes: This species was moved from genus Cremnophyton to Atriplex following Kadereit et al. (2010).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B1ab(i,ii,iii,v)+2ab(i,ii,iii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-17
Assessor(s): Mifsud, S., Lanfranco, E. & Stevens, D.T.
Reviewer(s): Allen, D.J. & Rivers, M.C.
Justification:
This species is endemic to Malta, where it restricted to coastal areas of the islands of Malta and Gozo. The species is primarily restricted to coastal cliffs that are subject natural cliff erosion processes, as well as impacts from limestone quarrying operations and pollution. The species has a restricted area of occupancy (AOO) of 64 kmand an extent of occurrence (EOO) of 159 km2. The total wild population is estimated to contain several thousands of individuals, but comprehensive surveys have not been undertaken due to the inaccessibility of some coastal cliffs. Whilst recent surveys have found new populations of this species, a slow continuing decline in population size and in the number of mature individuals is inferred based on habitat loss and other threats, with some subpopulations impacted by natural cliff erosion and collapse, as well as anthropogenic threats. The population is considered to be severely fragmented, and the AOO, the EOO, the quality of its habitat, and the number of mature individuals are undergoing a continuing decline. The species is assessed as Endangered (B1ab(i,ii,iii,v)+2ab(i,ii,iii,v)). 

Whilst both the habitat and the species are legally protected, ongoing monitoring of the species and its habitat is required in order to better understand its conservation status and the effectiveness of enforcement of current legislation, especially, over illegal dumping, land reclamation and the introduction of alien species. The extension of the existing protected areas should be considered to cover the entire distribution of this species in Gozo.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is restricted to the islands of Malta and Gozo (including Fungus Rock) where it has a fragmented distribution on the western and southern coasts; it is absent from the eastern coasts (Lanfranco 1989a). The extent of occurrence (EOO) 159 km2 and the area of occupancy is 64 km2.
Countries occurrence:
Native:
Malta
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:64Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:159
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):Yes
Lower elevation limit (metres):25
Upper elevation limit (metres):250
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The total wild population is estimated at several thousands of individuals, but comprehensive surveys have not been undertaken, in part due to the inaccessibility of some coastal cliffs. Whilst recent surveys (Mifsud 2013) have found new populations of this species, a slow continuing decline in population size and in the number of mature individuals is inferred based on habitat loss and other threats. The species has a discontinuous distribution and is considered severely fragmented, which could perhaps be an indication of decline, possibly due to habitat loss caused primarily by cliff collapse; for example, a significant coastal cliff collapse impacted one sub-population (S. Mifsud pers. comm. 2016). Unconfirmed records of Atriplex mollis (Sommier and Caruana Gatto 1915, Borg 1927) along the San Pawl il-Baħar-Mistra cliffs might refer to this species, however neither A. mollis nor this species have been observed in this area in recent decades (Mifsud 2013). Recruitment in its natural habitat is very low, possibly due to the insect (Eurytoma spp.), as well as an unknown parasitic endophytic fungus, that apparently limits reproductive success. In its natural habitat, this species is also gradually being replaced by invasive alien plants, particularly Agave americana and Opuntia ficus-indica, O. stricta, and Carpobrotus edulis (Commission of the European Communities 2009).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:Yes
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This is an evergreen, perennial, multi-branched woody shrub grows on sheer seaside cliffs along the southern and southwestern coastal cliffs of mainland Malta and the western and northwestern cliffs of Gozo, including Fungus Rock. Its preferred habitat are the lower parts of steep coralline limestone coastal cliffs (Lanfranco 1989a, Commission of the European Communities 2009), and it is also rarely found along more accessible cliff-top plateaus, but it never extends more than 100 m inland from the cliff edge (Mifsud 2013). It has however been successfully propagated, initially using in vitro micropropagation techniques, inland both in pots and in open ground.

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. The species was originally described in a new monotypic genus, Cremnophyton (Brullo and Pavone 1987) but following genetic analysis, the genus was recently merged into Atriplex (Kadereit et al. 2010). The species had long been confused with Atriplex portulacoides (= Halimione portulacoides), a plant of saline marshlands and dunes (not cliffs) also occurring on the Maltese Islands.
Systems:Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species is not widely used except occasional instances as an ornamental, using plants derived directly or indirectly from micropropagated material.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species' cliff habitat is primarily impacted by ongoing natural sea-cliff erosion processes, as well as by pressure waves from explosions from nearby limestone quarrying; the most recent landslide being in the Hal-Far area in 2010. Dust pollution from quarrying seems to be a minor problem. A number of subpopulations are directly impacted by the dumping of tar and other wastes, a crime difficult to control.

This species has been found to be affected by an endemic gall midge,
Asphondylia scopuli (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae), which induces fleshy spherical bud galls of about 4-5 mm in diameter in the leaf axils. The larvae are in turn parasitized by two other insects: Mesopolobus melitensis (family Pteromalidae), also endemic to Malta, and a still unidentified species of Eurytoma (family Eurytomidae), probably also endemic (Dorchin et al. 2014). The low sexual reproduction of the plant has been observed to be caused by the Eurytoma sp. that feeds on the seeds. Moreover, all wild plants tested were infected by an as yet unidentified fungus that apparently limits reproductive success (note that plants raised in vitro and consequently 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 and Opuntia ficus-indica.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species (as Cremnophyton lanfrancoi) was assessed previously as Critically Endangered in 2006 (de Montmollin and Strahm 2005, Lanfranco and Stevens 2016).

Actions in Place
Internationally, this species is listed in Appendix I of the Bern Convention, and since Malta’s EU accession to the European Union in May 2004, in Annex II and IV of the 92/43/EEC Habitats Directive as a priority species.

Within Malta, the species is protected by 92/43 EU Directive Regulations, 2006 (Legal Notice 311/2006 as amended), and included in the national Red Data Book as 'Rare' (Lanfranco 1989b, Stevens 1999). All cliffs on Malta and some cliffs on Gozo are also protected and/or scheduled either as Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas, Sites of Scientific Importance and/or Areas of Ecological Importance within the Natura 2000 framework. The islet known as Ħaġret il-Ġeneral (Fungus Rock), where this species  also occurs, is a Nature Reserve where access is forbidden, except for research purposes.

In situ: The coastal cliffs where this endemic species occurs are now almost all scheduled as Natura 2000 protected sites and are currently under approved management plans by the Environment and Resource Authority of Malta. A recent survey carried out by the Environment Protection Directorate (now part of the Environment Resource Authority) revealed new subpopulations of this species (Mifsud 2013), slightly expanding its actual range. Apart from being monitored periodically for its conservation status, specific actions for protection of this species are under effect, such as permitting for any kind of development or activity regarding the species or/and its habitat.

Ex situ
: This species has been propagated by laboratory techniques (in vitro micropropagation)  with great success and is available to local nurseries and gardeners. Such ex situ material is also easily propagated by cuttings.

Actions Needed

The most important action required is the monitoring of the area of occupancy to better understand its conservation status and the enforcement of the current legislation, especially, over illegal dumping, land reclamation and the introduction of alien species particularly on the easily accessible plateau. More research is needed to identify the factors responsible for this species' population decline, ecology, habitat fragmentation and its propagation by seeds. The extension of the existing protected areas should be considered by the competent authority to cover the entire distribution of this species in Gozo.

Classifications [top]

3. Shrubland -> 3.8. Shrubland - Mediterranean-type Shrubby Vegetation
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:No
13. Marine Coastal/Supratidal -> 13.1. Marine Coastal/Supratidal - Sea Cliffs and Rocky Offshore Islands
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
10. Geological events -> 10.3. Avalanches/landslides
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Very Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

3. Energy production & mining -> 3.2. Mining & quarrying
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Agave americana ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.2. Competition

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Opuntia ficus-indica ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.2. Competition

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.2. Problematic native species/diseases -> 8.2.2. Named species [ Unspecified Eurytoma ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

9. Pollution -> 9.4. Garbage & solid waste
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.4. Habitat trends

Bibliography [top]

Borg, J. 1927. Descriptive Flora of the Maltese Islands. Government Printing Office, Malta. 846 pp.

Brullo, S. and Pavone, P. 1987. Cremnophyton lanfrancoi: a new genus and species of Chenopodiaceae from Malta. Candollea 42(621-625).

Commission of the European Communities. 2009. Composite Report on the Conservation Status of Habitat Types and Species as required under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive. Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament. Brussels.

Dorchin, N., Mifsud, D. and Askew, R. 2014. Saltbush-associated Asphondylia species (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) in the Mediterranean Basin and their Chalcidoid parasitoids (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidae). Zootaxa 3869(4): 383-396.

IUCN. 2017. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-3. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 7 December 2017).

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.

Lanfranco, E. 1989a. The Maltese Cliff-Orache, Cremnophyton lanfrancoi - a new genus and species of flowering plant from the Maltese Islands. Potamon 17: 185-188.

Lanfranco, E. 1989b. The Flora. In: P.J. Schembri and J. Sultana (eds), Red Data Book for the Maltese Islands, pp. 5-70. Department of Information, Malta.

Lanfranco, E. and Stevens, D.T. 2016. Atriplex lanfrancoi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T61645A103727282. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T61645A103727282.en. Downloaded on 10 July 2017. Cambridge: IUCN

Mifsud, S. 2013. Distribution of some rare or endemic chasmophytic and rupestral species growing along the coastal cliffs of the Maltese Island. Webbia 68(1): 35-50.

Sommier, S. and Caruana Gatto, A. 1915. Flora Melitensis Nova. Studio Pellas, Firenze, Italy. viii + 502 pp.

Stevens, D.T. 1999. Legislation concerning the Protection and Conservation of Maltese Flora. In: R. Vujicic, E. Lanfranco and A. Vella (eds.), SOS for Maltese Flora, pp. pp. 57–74. Department of Biology of the University of Malta, Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries & the Environment Protection Department, Malta.


Citation: Mifsud, S., Lanfranco, E. & Stevens, D.T. 2017. Atriplex lanfrancoi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T61645A3106291. . Downloaded on 20 January 2018.
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