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trucha

regrowth study in 2019

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A recent summary is online with more to come.

 

https://cactusconservation.org/blog/2019/05/17/lophophora-williamsii-harvesting-regrowth-mortality/

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Sorrow at the destruction of plants, population, association and habitat

 

Thanks for your hard work, and for those who help with it

 

Joy that you are continuing, that somebody cares and does the work so well

 

Wishing you more power for your species and for your eagle eye data

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It seems yote is in trouble here in Texas.

So sad. If only the government would allow a gigantic growop to supply the churches. That would allow the populations to recover. 

 

 

 

 

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I have been seeing a lot of poachers called out recently in the FB groups which is good. But I guess there still exists a black market for poached plants anyway. Most of the poachers just don't seem to understand why it's a problem. Education is key, but it's hard for effective education to be provided when a plant is considered illegal.

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Someone also wiped out every last plant in the Big Bend population. Since those were harvested with roots it was likely a cactus collector.

In South Texas, on the other hand, the primary poachers are now and always have been the licensed distributors and their employees who are harvesting to sell to the NAC. Not all of them (I think maybe 6 licensed distributors are registered this year) but one in particular actually holds this as a point of pride and is famous for publicly proclaiming "No fence is too high for me.".

As long as those buying the medicine are OK with this, it has no possibility of changing.

BTW I've been informed by several people now that no one in South Texas considers it to be "poaching". Everyone prefers the more polite "fence jumping".  

 

 

Dudleya may be in even worse shape here in California. People stealing $90K" worth of plants to ship to China or Korea face a $10K fine. One successful trip will pay for several failures and still be nicely profitable.  The market for them appears to be booming.

Google Dudleya poaching if you want to learn more.

Edited by trucha
posted too soon
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So  would it possible to grow some big bend genetics and return them to the area some time in the future? Seeds could eveb be scattered in new areas hypothetically, right?

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One problem is that was not a natural population but the last known surviving population of a deliberate planting of peyote plants by indigenous people really long ago. (At least three such sites were once known and the other two - at Hueco Tanks and Glenn Springs- were removed many years ago.) The spot appears to have been chosen by someone based on the soil looking sort of similar to some peyote soils in color but it was actually a small zone of *really* alkaline weathered volcanic tuff in the midst of completely unsuitable and inhospitable "soil" types. The plants there were healthy but clearly at their limit with a slow rate of growth and an extremely low rate of seedling recruitment so it was a really unique locality to even exist.

Broadcasting seeds will have results similar to what exists in nature. In good conditions, maybe one out of ten or a hundred will germinate and form a seedling and probably no more of those will make it to adulthood. It may be worth trying if a person has many thousands of seeds to spare but most people are going to opt for a higher survival rate and not waste so many precious seeds. Since natural seed recruitment was inhibited to an even lower rate at this site it would require far more seeds and with no guarantee of success.  Due to the soil it is likely even planting them as plants will have a low survival rate.

The easily located paper "Tragedy of the Commons" describes the problem very well. Each individual most often considers their impact to be acceptable as, in their mind, it is just about them and their action is regarded to be small.  It is really common. It is easy in fact to find people online discussing their plans to go find and eat some peyote in Big bend. Not long ago someone told me about this and commented he only took a few in order to be respectful, not from BBNP but from a nearby wilderness area.  When I lived in Texas I watched the Mammillaria heyderii, Echinocereus reichenbachii var. caespitosa and Echinocereus coccineus in the easy to access public areas near the camping zones completely disappear; one at a time. No doubt by individuals who probably believed taking just one wouldn't hurt anything. Plenty of Opuntia is left of course. And removing plants removes more than plants, it removes the seed supply for the future.

Again though, a take away point here is those Big Bend plants were DUG up so are likely in someone's plant collection or may be appearing for sale as plants or as their seeds in the future. Even Gerhard Koehres pilfering just a few seeds for amplification and commercial distribution directly played a significant role in its destruction. While one can say the genetics are now preserved in horticulture, this seems like a high price for plant lovers to have some BBNP peyote in captivity.

 

Increasingly I have real difficulty believing wild peyote is not going to be "loved" into total extirpation. Most likely heavily weighted towards the people who believe it is a spiritual medicine and deliberately seek it out for that reason but as this case suggests cactus collectors also have had lasting impact. In fact, plant collectors are now widely considered to be the single most serious threat that exists to wild cacti (and succulents) in both North and South America. In some cases that has clearly been due to commercial scale harvesting but it is also due to the increasing numbers of people who believe their small take will be insignificant and not caring they are but one in a perennial flood of tourists. The planet will likely require a good asteroid to solve this problem. 

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I guess my only idea is that humans must now play a fairly major role in keeping a lot of species alive artificially. I'm not saying it's a good thing we have come to this, but now that it has, I think we should be aware that there should be an element of consevation in what we do with these plants. For example I grow a species of orchid (Laelia gouldiana) that is considered extinct in the wild (something I found out after purchasing the plant). I guess I should take it upon myself to become involved in it's conservation somehow. Same with Tricho scopulicola. I'm pretty sure I read that it is extinct in the wild. Perhaps we should be sending seed back to be scattered in it's region of origin. It may all seem a bit ridiculous but extinctions ARE an increasing problem, and humans will literally be the last hope for many species. And I know how stupid and ironic this is but we're going to have to get really  serious about the conservation aspect of our hobbies. Like an added responsibility kinda thing. 

 

Anyway,  just some thoughts I guess. 

 

 

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No argument at all with the wisdom of returning seeds to the wild. Selectively planting seedlings would have a higher success rate and would also be a good activity to consider; if and where possible. Especially if the planting was done Hopi-style with a mind not just for selecting a microniche encouraging survival but also with a mind for where the seeds of the survivors would go after being dropped in the future. Steps could even be taken to improve microtopography for encouraging better seed capturing and seedling recruitment.

Two concerns should be considered if taking those paths.

1) Diseases and pests are also nurtured better under cultivated conditions. A mind for being aware of an avoiding introduction of pests from insects and fungi to viruses and microbes would be of value. Soil from commercial cultivation operations would a good thing to not include; just as a precaution. Fortunately cacti do perfectly fine being planted bareroot.

2) Some cacti, like peyote, have become adapted to specific climactic zones or soils. This is where what Gerhard Koehres has done in propagating a wealth of Lophophora from many different known localities could be of immense benefit. Picking and choosing plants originating from a specific geographic area would be of value for returning the same genetics as came from a particular locality to that same locality. If not possible, selecting seeds from another point of origin that was similar in climate and soil to the target zone for replanting would be helpful.  Peyote plants from South Texas would most often all die if growing unprotected in West Texas where wild peyote can experience brutal cold with single digit temperatures (and survive) but those from Chihuahua might do fine.  

The reestablishment of cacti through seed planting has been evaluated in Astrophytum asterias and was judged to be an ineffectual approach. However, there is something worth understanding about that. The conclusion was based on a lower survival rate when compared to the replanting of seedlings. The survival rate of the seeds was NOT zero. It was actually higher than most botanists anticipate for wild cactus dropping their seed. The conclusion was based on practical matters such as having a limited number of viable seeds and wanting to maximize the returns on the investment of resources.

Forgive me for sounding like a cliche. The plants of tomorrow do begin with the seeds of today.

 

Edited by trucha
edited for typo correction
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Is a replanting effort likely? Sounds like an awesome project.

It was nice to see this https://www.bialabate.net/news/the-peyote-files-chacruna, and I think more public awareness of the implications of wild harvesting wouldn't go astray. Although in the case of the Big Bend population, it sounds like the harvesters (as collectors) might have been aware of these implications and just not cared :(

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"You are no doubt familiar with the challenges faced by the peyote cactus both in the wild cactus populations and as a sacrament of increasingly short supply among adherents of the peyote faith. Collaborative efforts are underway to mitigate this challenge by two organizations: Cactus Conservation Institute, a 501(c)3 and Sia: The Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative, the Piah Puha Kahni, Mother Church of Comanche Native American Church 1918 Charter Association.
 
Our shared goal is furthering peyote conservation by establishing a sound and reproducible methodology for cultivating peyote on a large scale. Our cultivation project is intended to produce seedlings for the eventual use as medicine for ceremonial use as well as hardened seedlings for future repopulation of wild localities that have been wiped out.
 
Sia has many years of success in working with endangered eagle populations and eagle propagation, including pioneering innovative breeding approaches. It is the only tribal feather repository. Cactus Conservation Institute is the foremost producer of high-quality academic and field research on peyote conservation since 2004 with a focus on the Tamaulipan thornscrub, the primary habitat for peyote in the U.S.
 
Our interests extend to greenhouse production and cultivation for ceremonial use and to appropriate reestablishment in the wild and the ways we can help existing populations recover from harvesting pressures. Our goal is to engage in reproducible, evidence-based science with studies generating peer-reviewed papers. We intend to validate a marriage of science, culture and religious aspects of the peyote cactus and show that the goals of these interests are not necessarily competitive or in conflict but can complement each other.
 
We already have the people and the skill sets. We need your help to secure a place to perform this work. Our goal is to raise $99,000. Of these funds, approximately $55,000 will be used to purchase nine acres of land adjacent to Sia’s existing location, where research can occur and oversight will be easy to maintain. The remaining $44,000 will buy a greenhouse and supplies necessary to begin our cultivation studies.
 
You can help us solve both the pressures placed on wild plants and the supply challenges faced by future generations of Native American Church members who choose a path of cultivation by making a tax-deductible contribution of any size, large or small. Your support is vital to achieving our goals of peyote conservation through developing sustainable harvesting management and land stewardship practices. We must succeed in our mission while wild peyote is still left in the world.  If you would like to better understand why it is rapidly disappearing, please visit our website and that of Sia The Comanche Nation Ethno Ornithological Initiative."

https://au.gofundme.com/f/save-peyote

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