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Image ©: Fred Rumsey
The extinction risk of lycopods and ferns was assessed at the European level. As a result, 19.9% of lycopod and fern species are considered threatened (i.e. assessed as having an elevated risk of extinction) in Europe. However, the proportion of threatened species is uncertain given the number of Data Deficient (DD) species and could lie between 19.2% (if all DD species are not threatened) and 22.8% (if all DD species are threatened) for Europe. The mid-point figure provides the best estimation of the proportion of threatened species. In the EU 28, 21.3% of species are considered to be threatened, with the proportion of threatened species lying between 20.5% (if all DD species are not threatened) and 24.2% (if all DD species are threatened).
Proportion of threatened lycopods and ferns in Europe.
In Europe, one species (0.5%) is assessed as Regionally Extinct (and may prove to be globally extinct, pending further taxonomic study). Ten species (5.2%) are Critically Endangered, 11 species (5.7%) are Endangered, and 16 species (8.2%) are Vulnerable. A further 26 species (13.4%) are classified as Near Threatened. For seven species (3.6%) there were insufficient data to evaluate their risk of extinction and so they were classified as Data Deficient. As more data become available and taxonomic issues clarified, it is possible that some of these species may also prove to be threatened.
In the EU 28, one species (0.5%) is assessed as Regionally Extinct. 10 species (5.2%) are Critically Endangered, 11 species (5.8%) are Endangered, and 18 species (9.4%) are Vulnerable. A further 25 species (13.1%) are classified as Near Threatened. For seven species (3.7%) in the EU 28 there were insufficient data to evaluate their risk of extinction and so they were classified as Data Deficient.
By comparison with other comprehensive European Red List assessments, 59% of freshwater molluscs, 40% of freshwater fishes, 28.5% of grasshoppers, crickets and bush-crickets, 23% of amphibians, 20% of reptiles, 17% of mammals, 16% of dragonflies, 13% of birds, 9% of butterflies and bees, 8% of aquatic plants and 2% of medicinal plants are threatened. Additional European Red Lists assessing a selection of species showed that 22% of terrestrial molluscs, 16% of crop wild relatives and 15% of saproxylic beetles are also threatened. Thus, lycopods and ferns have a similar percentage of threatened species in Europe as reptiles, and are the most threatened group of vascular plants assessed so far.
Summary of numbers of lycopods and ferns within each Red List Category.
IUCN Red List status of lycopods and ferns in Europe.
IUCN Red List status of lycopods and ferns in the EU 28.
Compared to the overall proportion of threatened species, the families with the higher proportion of threatened species are Marsileaceae (66.7%) and Isoëtaceae (52.6%). In addition, the single species of Psilotaceae in Europe is also threatened, but this is an outlying population of an otherwise pan-tropical species.
Many of these threatened species are associated with Mediterranean vernal pools, a highly threatened habitat. Isoëtaceae are also known to prefer oligotrophic waters and are thus sensitive to agricultural run-off and other nutrient pollutants that enter the waterbodies they occur in. In addition, they are also affected by changes of aquatic regimes. Habitat change is another major threat for Botrychium (Ophioglossaceae), which is a genus that has disappeared from many sites due to changes in land management. The ephemeral nature of the above-ground parts of Botrychium, in combination with its extreme difficulty for ex situ conservation, make the sites where these plants still occur a priority for habitat preservation and site management.
The only Regionally Extinct species is the dwarf epiphyte Grammitis quaerenda, which no longer occurs on the Canary Islands. It is closely related or conspecific with G. ebenina, which occurs on other Atlantic Islands like St. Helena and Cape Verde. If they were considered the same species, the name G. quaerenda has priority and is regionally extinct. If they are not the same species then G. quaerenda is globally extinct. A genetic study is needed to confirm the identity of the extinct material from the Canary Islands.
Conversely, six families do not include any threatened species in Europe. Many species in these families are common in boreal-temperate forests, some in wetlands and others extending up to the alpine belt. Many species are of a weedy nature or tolerant to disturbance. Soils on which these non-threatened species generally grow are usually moderately moist, within forest areas or on alpine meadows rich in organic matter. Such habitats are common in Europe and many species generally show broad ecological and climatic amplitude.
Regarding the DD species, 42.8% of these belong to Polypodiaceae, in particular the genus Dryopteris. This is because the taxonomy of Dryopteris has proven to be more complicated since Jalas and Suominen (1972) published their distribution maps. This is in part due to the recognition of novel allopolyploid species, the effects of reticulate evolution, hybridisation and apomixis, with the resulting difficulties in finding clear morphological distinctions between closely related species. While there are discrepancies on the status of some taxa, respectively treated as species, subspecies or at lower rank, difficulties to differentiate between similar-looking taxa have led to scanty and unreliable data recording and thus these taxa had to be assessed as DD. In the case of Asplenium, where similar taxonomic issues occur, the broad species concept has been followed for the purposes of the assessment, providing an additional Red List assessment for each of the separate subspecies whenever possible.
The status of LC was assigned to all the species of Dennstaedtiaceae (two species), Equisetaceae (ten species), Osmundaceae (one species) and Selaginellaceae (four species). Families with a high proportion of LC species include Pteridaceae (78.9%, 15 species) and Hymenophyllaceae (75%, three species).
IUCN Red List status (at the European level) of ferns and lycopods by family.