Removal of Lepanthes Eltoroensis From the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Plants

What is Lepanthes eltoroensis?

Lepanthes eltoroensis is an orchid that measures no more than 4 centimeters long with a single leaf and three to seven slender stems. Found only in El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, it grows on moss-covered tree trunks within the cloud forest where important habitat components seem to be elevation, adequate moisture, open gaps in the canopy, and the presence of moss. It does not have a common name.

What is the range of Lepanthes eltoroensis?

This species is restricted in distribution to one general area within El Yunque National Forest at elevations above 2,461 feet.

What is the population status of Lepanthes eltoroensis?

The orchid’s estimated population has increased from around 140 individuals when it was listed as an endangered species in 1991 to a current estimate of about 3,000 individuals.

Why is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposing to remove Lepanthes eltoroensis from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Plants?

Given a thorough review of the best available scientific and commercial information, which includes analyses of species threats and population status, the Service has determined the species no longer meets the definition of endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A threatened species is one that is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. An endangered species is one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

What prompted the Service to take this action?

The latest scientific information indicates there are significantly more individuals than at the time of listing. In addition, threats to the species have been eliminated or reduced to the point that the species no longer meets the definition of an endangered or threatened species under the ESA.

What recovery actions were implemented to lessen the threats to the species?

The Service, in collaboration with the U.S Forest Service and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, successfully implemented the following recovery actions:

  • Prevented further habitat loss and population decline;
  • Continued to gather information on the distribution and abundance of the species; and
  • Conducted research to learn about its life history.

What are the remaining threats to Lepanthes eltoroensis?

The primary threats to Lepanthes eltoroensis are direct and indirect effects associated with climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change
. Climate change projections for Puerto Rico suggest an increase in average temperature, a decrease in average precipitation, a shift of Puerto Rico life zones from humid to drier climates, and less frequent but more intense tropical cyclones.

These climate change projections could reduce the viability of the species. However, since the species seems to show population stability even after being exposed to tropical cyclones, it appears that the species has the ability to recover from normal disturbances. No significant impacts from climate change stressors are anticipated.

What did the Service consider in reaching its decision to delist Lepanthes eltoroensis?

In making this decision, the Service conducted a thorough status review. Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA requires the Service to determine whether a species is endangered or threatened based on one or more of the five following factors:

  • A. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range.
  • B. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes.
  • C. Disease or predation.
  • D. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.
  • E. Other natural or human-made factors affecting its continued existence.

If Lepanthes eltoroensis is delisted, will it continue to be monitored by the Service or some other group?

Yes. The ESA requires the Service, in cooperation with the states, to monitor the species for at least five years after delisting. The final Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan (PDM Plan) summarizes the species’ status at the time of delisting, defines thresholds or triggers for potential monitoring outcomes and conclusions, lays out the frequency and duration of monitoring, articulates monitoring methods including sampling considerations, outlines compilation and reporting procedures and responsibilities, and proposes a post-delisting monitoring implementation schedule, including timing and responsible parties.

The PDM will be implemented through the cooperative efforts of the Service, the U.S Forest Service, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and other partners.

When will the delisting be final?

This final rule will become effective July 16, 2021.

Story Tags

Endangered and/or Threatened species
Flowering plants