Conservation Status: IUCN Red List - Endangered
Threats to Survival: Scale infestation; habitat loss
The once large populations of sturdy, prehistoric Micronesian cycads on the island of Guam and Rota are crashing and may soon require support from the other populations. The species is still doing well within the island nation of Palau, where a small but stable population remains. As with any species with a limited range, these cycads are susceptible to unpredictable events, such as typhoons. Research into how to germinate seed and propagate these cycads to enhance populations is needed now, well before a disaster mandates it. The Micronesian cycad, along with a unique island flora, has led our Plant Conservation team to support terrestrial conservation efforts within Palau.
Propping Up with Propagation
We have long-standing expertise in monitoring fruit for peak ripeness, collecting to ensure full representation of genetic diversity, and processing seed from wild plants. The Zoo’s Horticulture department has expertise in growing cycads, palms, orchids, and a rich variety of plants found in tropical environments. We are combining these skill sets to assist our partners in Palau as they grow more native plants in nurseries to meet a variety of conservation needs. Associated efforts include restoration following typhoons or wildfires, population enhancement for rare and threatened species, provision of plant material for traditional medicine in order to reduce wild harvest, and encouragement of native landscaping to limit importation of potentially invasive ornamental garden species.
Importance of Monitoring
With an area of only 177 square miles, Palau supports incredible tropical forest diversity, with over 730 native plants, 150 of which are found only on Palau. While Palau’s relative isolation has contributed to its unique diversity, it has also limited the amount of research and basic natural history information needed to inform conservation and land management efforts. To increase our effectiveness, we have partnered with several local organizations in Palau. Drawing on local knowledge, often undocumented, and helping local people increase their capacity to conserve their lands are key to conservation success. Our team has helped our local partners analyze and synthesize their forest monitoring data in the past and plans to help with rare plant monitoring in the future.