Juniperus comitana Martínez

Cupressaceae

Distributed in southern Mexico and northern Guatemala where it is under threat from deforestation for agricultural purpose and for timber

Associated Names:

Distribution

Has a relatively widespread distribution from Comitán in Chiapas, Mexico to northern Guatemala.

No population figures are known, but there is evidently a substantial and ongoing decline in the numbers of mature trees

Habitat and Ecology

Juniperus comitana is found on dry, rocky slopes or in canyons with shrub or open woodland cover, growing with e.g. Acacia and Ficus in forest pasture on dolomite and other rock types with thin soil. The altitudinal range is from 1300 to 1800 meters aboce sea-level.

Human Uses

The wood of this juniper is used locally by the Amerindian population for firewood and also for fence posts.

Conservation Status

Global status

Endangered B2ab(ii,iii,v)

Global rationale

In Guatemala this species is known from three locations, one is along the border with Mexico (Chiapas), into which it extends but is scattered and known from four locations (one could be considered identical with a location in Guatemala). Not all have been collected, but 90% is probably represented. This and the continuous decline indicates an assessment of Endangered. The AOO is estimated to be not greater than 275km² if grids are 5 km wide: this may be an overestimate. This species is listed as Endangered on the Guatemalan Redlist (Rivero, 2006).

Global threats

This species is threatened by deforestation and overexploitation of forest resources as an indirect result of a rapidly growing human population with an almost exclusively rural economy. Especially the junipers that occur in pine-oak forests, although not specifically targeted, have decreased with that forest type both in Chiapas and in Guatemala. The situation in Guatemala has been described by Islebe (1993) with some emphasis on the situation in the Guatemalan Sierra de los Cuchumatánes where both J. comitana and J. standleyi still occur.

Conservation Actions

It is necessary to declare and manage more protected areas in both countries to include viable populations of this species, as the main threat is deforestation and conversion to agricultural land uses.