Juniperus barbadensis var. barbadensis

Cupressaceae

Endemic to one mountain in St Lucia where only about 50 mature individuals survive and are threatened by wild-fires

Associated Names:

Barbados cedar and pencil cedar

Distribution

J. barbadensis var barbadensis occurs in a small population on St. Lucia in the West Indies where it was rediscovered in 1985. The only known location is near to the summit of Petit Piton which is located near the towns of Soufrière and Choiseul on the southwestern coast of the island. It has an area of occupancy (AOO) of 0.0006 km² (Adams et al., 1987). It was formerly known from Barbados but it is now extinct there having been cut before 1700 (Adams, 1989) and its habitat converted to sugar cane fields over 280 years ago (Adams, 1995). It was once believed to have been common in the parishes of Choiseul and Laborie (Graveson, pers. comm in Morton, 2009). According to an agricultural report for St Lucia written in 1921, (published in The Voice, April 29, 1922, p. 6) this taxon used to grow wild all along the South Western coast of the island of St Lucia, but has now been nearly all destroyed with the exception of a few trees situated at the top of the Petit Piton. Adams et al., (1987) reports that the population numbers about 30 individuals but more recent observations estimates this figure to be up to 50 individuals.

Habitat and Ecology

Small tree 2-6 m tall (Graveson, pers. comm in Morton, 2009) of pyramidal shape on the north and west sides of Petit Piton's summit, but rounded and leaning on the windward east side (Adams, 2011). Grows on rocky outcrops (volcanic origin) in deciduous seasonal forest (Graveson, 2009) 30m below the summit of a coastal mountain at an altitude of ca 700m. Associated species include: the endemic Bernardia laurentii (sole location) and occasional small gnarled trees bent by the wind such as Capparis indica, Casearia decandra, Daphnopsis americana, Erithalis odifera, Krugiodendron ferreum, Tabebuia heterophylla. Non-woody species include: Agave caribaeicola, Peperomia magnoliifolia, Pitcairnia angustifolia, Tillandsia fasciculata and T. utriculata.

Conservation Status

Global status

Critically Endangered B2ab(iii); C2a(i)

Global rationale

The area of occupancy (AOO) has been calculated as being 0.0006km² which is well with the threshold of 10km² under Critically Endangered. It is further eligible under Critically Endangered due to it having fewer that 50 individuals all of which are in a single population. Such a small and isolated population is under continuous threat from fire, pathogen attack and frequent hurricanes.

Global threats

Although grazing and cutting have been listed as threats it is thought that the remnant population is more threatened by wildfire which have occurred on Petit Piton in the recent years (Graveson, pers. comm in Morton, 2009). Other potential threats include hurricanes and insect damage.

Conservation Actions

In St Lucia it is protected in an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The following conservation recommendations have been made (Morton, 2009):

  • Minimize the risk of wildfires by regulating access to Petit Piton and sensitizing unofficial tour guides to the dangers of fire
  • Cultivation by Santa Lucia Forest Department (SLFD), ideally by propagation from seed to maximize genetic diversity captured
  • Encourage cultivation for use and sale as an endemic Christmas tree
  • Replanting (and protection) in SLFD's Forest Reserves within seasonal deciduous forest (primarily the Marquis Forest Reserves and around La Sorciere)
  • Review and if necessary amend legislation and ensure planted trees are afforded protection from logging outside the Forest Reserves
  • Seed banking