A 13-year study has been key to understanding how and why an orchid species (Cypripedium calceolus), which is endangered in some countries in Europe, is surviving and recovering in the Pyrenees. The results suggest that the abandonment of farming and grazing, which is enabling reforestation to take place, is benefiting this orchid.
Populations of species at the edges of their distribution areas, as is the case with the 'lady's slipper' orchid (Cypripedium calceolus) on the southern side of the Pyrenees, have always been considered to be more vulnerable than those at the centre of their range.
This is what led to researchers from the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC) publishing the first ever count-based plant demographic model to find out whether populations of this rare Euro-Asian orchid are in a worse situation than those in countries such as Poland or Estonia.
"The populations on the southern edges of the Pyrenees are similar in size, reproduce better, and are as stable or even growing at a faster pace than those in Central Europe", Mara B. Garca, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC), tells SINC.
According to the study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, this "unusual" result seems to be related to reforestation in the areas of the Pyrenees studied. The ending of traditional practices such as farming and grazing could help some endangered forest plants to recover.
"For a plant that is used to colder temperatures (such as in Central and Northern Europe), reforestation in more southerly areas could represent an improvement to its habitat, thereby leading to an increase in the population growth rate", says Garca, who confirmed that the highest such rate found to date is in the Pyrenees.
The research also highlights the fact that landscape changes and the expansion of forests over the past 50 years in mountainous regions a
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology