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Columnar cacti

Cleistocactus peculiaris C. hystrix

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What are the characteristics of these species?

  • The genus Cleistocactus belongs to the group of columnar cacti that are characterized by being relatively small (50cm-1.50 m), and whose trunk diameter varies between 5-10 cm depending on the species.

  • They are decumbent (with parallel branches and fences to the ground) or shrubby and have numerous radial and central spines.

  • Its flowers are bright red, usually with a thin long floral tube, slightly open at the apex, showing only stigmas and stamens.

  • The fruits are rounded and vary in size and color, from orange to reddish.

  • Cleistocactus peculiaris, presents prostrate form, and measures between 60-80 cm long and 5 cm in diameter. It has between 17-18 ribs. Its flower is 8 cm long and only 2 cm in diameter, carmine.

  • Cleistocactus hystrix, presents decumbent erect body, branches of 80-150 cm long and 6-10 cm in diameter. It is gray green with 15 ribs. It has a small red flower, 5 cm long, its fruit is rounded red / brown with green. The specific name refers to the spiky thorns that characterize it.

Where do we study these species?

The study area includes the arid regions of the western Andes in the town of Huancacasa (3,220 masl in the Department of Huancavelica), to the sandy desert areas of Pisco (740 masl) in the ELU 12.

What questions do we seek to answer with the study?

  • What is the range of distribution and abundance of C. hystrix and C. peculiaris in relation to the gas pipeline?

  • What are the habitat preferences for C. hystrix and C. peculiaris?

  • What are the potential primary and secondary impacts of the pipeline on the populations of these species?

What general results have we obtained to date?

  • Cleistocactus peculiaris has a distribution range of 800-2,700 masl, with abundance ranges of 26-77 individuals / ha in non-impacted plots and 17-53 individuals / ha in impacted plots. This species has a random distribution pattern, and showed a frequent association with rocks in both types of plots, with an average association with rocks greater than 80%. About 40% of the individuals of this species had floral structures in both types of plots, but they had on average a significantly higher number of fruits in plots not impacted (24.3%) than in those impacted. The variables of abundance, aggregation, association with nursery plants and the presence of fruits were significant. In addition, no significant differences were found in the size classes between non-impacted and impacted plots. There were no significant differences in any of the growth variables or in the distances to the right of way in this species.

  • Cleistocactus hystrix has a restricted range of 2,800-3,100 meters above sea level. This species has abundance ranges in non-impacted plots of 80-380 individuals / ha (with a plot of 2,160 individuals / ha) in non-impacted plots and 100-450 individuals / ha in impacted plots and found a grouped distribution pattern . C. hystrix did not have associations with nurseries, with aggregation values ​​of 30% in plots not impacted and 16% in impacted plots. About 0.8% of the individuals of this species had floral structures (with 34% of the flowers aborted) in non-impacted plots compared to 4.2% (with 34% of the flowers aborted) in impacted plots. This difference was statistically significant. No individuals with fruits were found during the study. The variables of abundance, aggregation, association with nursery plants and the presence of fruits were significant. No differences were found in the size distributions between the impacted and impacted plots. We found significant differences in the average diameter and number of dead branches with respect to the right-of-way distance. Subsequent comparison tests showed that individuals between 50-100 m of the pipeline had higher values ​​in the average diameter (p <0.05), while individuals located at 300-400 m had a greater number of dead branches than individuals they were found more than 900 m from the right of way.

Why is the conservation of this species important?

  • According to Supreme Decree No. 043.2006-AG, which regulates threatened Peruvian flora species, C. peculiaris is categorized as an endangered species, while C. hystrix is ​​categorized as critically endangered.

  • Both species are endemic to Peru and have a fairly restricted range of distribution.

  • The ecological information of these two species is very limited.

  • Columnar cacti like those of the genus Cleistocactus provide resources for desert fauna. These include pollen and nectar for pollinators such as insects and hummingbirds and fruits, which can be an important source of food for a variety of animal species not yet studied. The columnar cacti, because of their importance in the desert ecosystem, where food resources may be scarce, can be considered as "key" species of these ecosystems. Their disappearance could result in the disappearance of the fauna that depends on them.

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