Population structure and survival of the critically endangered cycad Encephalartos latifrons in South Africa

28 Aug 2020

This study investigates the population structure and life history traits of the Critically Endangered cycad, Encephalartos latifrons. Populations of E. latifrons have been considered functionally extinct because no natural recruitment has been observed in the wild for almost 30 years. The discovery of a previously undocumented population of E. latifrons has made it possible to build on previous research into the life history and regeneration capabilities of the species. This new population was censused annually over 5 years; between 2013 and 2017. Population characteristics of this ‘new’ population were compared to earlier studies in 2010 of a well-known and intensively managed population. Results of the censuses show that the newly discovered population of E. latifrons appears to be increasing under current environmental conditions through natural recruitment. The discovery of a ‘new’ E. latifrons population has uncovered many more questions and further research is needed. Information on the life history of E. latifrons, particularly its response to fire, should be used to inform conservation management decisions at a time where the impact of climate change is predicted to have a major influence in the Fynbos Biome.