Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 2, Issue 6, pp 681–690 | Cite as

Species distribution profiles of the neotropical orchids Masdevallia and Dracula (Pleurothallidinae, Orchidaceae); implications for conservation

  • Harold Koopowitz
  • Alan Thornhill
  • Mark Anderson

The orchid genera Masdevallia and Dracula bear very strange and bizarre flowers. They are, however, very popular with plant enthusiasts and there is a fair amount of commercial trade in these genera. The genera belong to a sub-tribe of the orchids, the Pleurothallidinae, which otherwise mostly have small and insignificant flowers. The majority of the species of Masdevallia and Dracula have been reported from single localities and approximately two thirds of all species are found at three or fewer sites. Most genera in the sub-tribe have similar distribution patterns. Using published deforestation rates and species distribution profiles we calculate that 402 of the total 3405 pleurothallid species may have been driven to extinction by random deforestation events. It is possible that as many as 46 Masdevallia species and 14 Dracula species have already been lost and that annual extinction rates for the two genera are 1 and 0.3 species per year respectively. It has been suggested that the two genera should be protected, by listing them in CITES Appendix I. It is unlikely that embargoes on trade would change extinction rates caused by forest conversion. Such embargoes might actually hamper ex situ conservation efforts.


orchids pleurothallids modelling 


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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harold Koopowitz
    • 1
  • Alan Thornhill
    • 1
  • Mark Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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