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Climate mapping can point to danger spots of Africa’s cycads

Published: 10th Apr, 2021

Climate mapping can point to danger spots of Africa’s cycads

Cycads which are the world’s oldest seed-producing plants are facing extinction.


Cycads which are the world’s oldest seed-producing plants are facing extinction.


About African Cycad

  • Taxa: It belongs to the most prominent taxa of Cycad.
  • Genus: It comes under the genus Encephalartos.
  • Endemism: Cycad is endemic to Africa.
  • Global Hotspot: Africa is considered home to a variety of cycad species and South Africa is considered as a global hotspot for cycad diversity.
  • Conservation Status: It is categorized under the “critically endangered” category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  • Threat:The biggest threat to their survival is poaching, mainly cutting of the wild old trees.
  • Use: They are used in traditional medicine markets and as ornamental plants in gardens.

Why they are threatened with extinction?

  • Alien Species: The wild cycads are facing threat by an invasive alien species, Aulacaspis yasumatsui that has entered South Africa. 
  • Aulacaspis yasumatsuiis a scale insect which is commonly known as the Cycas Aulacaspis Scale.
  • It has the potential to kill cycad plants within a few months of infestation.
  • Climate plays an important role in influencing the spread and establishment of invasive alien species in new habitats.

Invasive Species

  • An invasive species is a living organism that is not native to an ecosystem and can causes harm.
  • It can include amphibians, plants, insects, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism's seeds or eggs.
  • They can harm the environment, economy, or even human health.

How it is being tackled?

  • CLIMEX, a bio-climatic software, is used to map the areas which have favorable climatic conditions for the establishment of the pest in Africa.
  • The software uses historical climate data sets and future climate scenarios which are based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommendations.
  • It collects information about temperature, relative humidity, phenology, and soil moisture that helps inthe establishment of the Cycas Aulacaspis Scale in a novel range.
  • These values are fed to the software, which subsequently predicts the potential hot spots for Cycas Aulacaspis Scale establishment.

How the software is helpful?

  • Integrated Pest Management approaches which include cultural, biological as well as chemical practices can be applied in potential hotspots to protect the cycads.

IUCN Red List

  • IUCN red list was established in 1964.
  • The IUCN Red List Categories species based on risks of global extinction.
  • It divides species into nine categories: Not EvaluatedData DeficientLeast ConcernNear ThreatenedVulnerableEndangeredCritically EndangeredExtinct in the Wild, and Extinct.
    • Extinct (EX): It is said to be when it is beyond reasonable doubt that the species is no longer extant.
    • Extinct in the wild (EW) – When species survives only in captivity.
    • Critically endangered (CR) – When species are in a particular and extremely critical state.
    • Endangered (EN) – Species face a very high risk of extinction in the wild, meet any of criteria A to E for Endangered.
    • Vulnerable (VU) – It meets one of the 5 red list criteria.
    • Near threatened (NT) – Species are close to being at high risk of extinction shortly.
    • Least concern (LC) – It is unlikely to become extinct shortly.

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