Pinus tropicalis Morelet

Pinaceae

Endemic to western Cuba where it is threatened by over-exploitation for its valuable timber

Associated Names:

Distribution

Distributed in western Cuba where the population is naturally divided into two major subpopulations, one on mainland Cuba (Pinar del Río) and one on Isla de la Juventud (Isla de Pinos). Furthermore, the subpopulation on the mainland has been fragmented into 10–11 locations, some of which are separated by unsuitable terrain or by plantations of Pinus caribaea that do not contain this threatened species.

Habitat and Ecology

Pinus tropicalis is a lowland species, occurring on the coastal plains and low foothills between 1–150(-300)m above sea level, on nutrient-poor sandy or gravelly alluvial soils which are dry due to rapid drainage. The climate is tropical, with annual precipitation of around 1200mm and a prolonged dry season. It is in part sympatric with P. caribaea var. caribaea, which has a greater altitudinal range. Pine savanna's are open, grass-dominated lowland areas which burn frequently; P. tropicalis has an advantage over P. caribaea through its 'grass stage' by which the seedling can survive successive fires. Thus it becomes frequently the only pine in this vegetation type.

Human Uses

It is an important regional source of timber mainly used by local sawmills. Its wood is dense and durable, but resinous. Despite extensive exploitation, it is still common. Regeneration seems to be good in many areas especially where it is protected from grazing pressures. It is also used in plantation forestry, mainly in Cuba, but also to a limited extent elsewhere

Conservation Status

Global status

Vulnerable B1ab(ii,iii,v)+2ab(ii,iii,v)

Global rationale

The previous (1998) assessment did not account for a decline that was already going on due to deliberate replacement of Pinus tropicalis with P. caribaea by foresters. The extent of occurrence and area of occupancy are both within the threshold for Vulnerable, calculated on the basis of comprehensive sampling of localities (48 collections from 20 well spread localities) using the GIS Red List Assessment tool under ArcView mapping (RBG Kew, GIS Unit, Steve Bachman). This species is therefore listed as Vulnerable.

Global threats

Overexploitation for timber is a potential threat to the survival of naturally occurring (wild) subpopulations of this species. Foresters and land managers may prefer to see it replaced by Pinus caribaea, which does not have the delaying “grass stage” in its early growth phase. This tendency is known to pose a threat to P. palustris in the southeastern USA. Field observations (by Burkhard Witt ) indicate a decline in favour of (plantations of ) Pinus caribaea in the area that has been going on for “the last decades” and is presumably still ongoing.

Conservation Actions

This species is present in two national parks on the mainland of Cuba: Parque Nacional de Viñales and P.N. La Güira