Scientists at the University of Exeter are describing five previously unknown plant species from the Bolivian Andes. All of the new species belong to the genus Jacquemontia, a group of trailing plants with blue flowers.
As the issue of biodiversity loss becomes increasingly worse on a global scale, it is more important than ever before to identify new plants so that they can be protected from extinction.
“Many plant species have not been identified and classified, especially in the tropics,” said study co-author Rosie Clegg. “If you don’t know what a species is, you can’t conserve it.”
“Working with local collaborators in Bolivia, we have identified five new Jacquemontia species – and our work so far suggests most of them are relatively rare.”
The researchers now want to learn more about Jacquemontia plants, which often grow in open or grassy habitats. On the other hand, some of the species are highly specialized, existing only in a single location.
When plants are limited to a very small range, they are more susceptible to threats such as climate change and human development.
The current study by Clegg is focused on rock outcrops, where some Jacquemontia plants can be found. However, the new species are found on Andean slopes.
“Rock outcrops come in many forms across South America, with different geologies and different plants living on them,” said Clegg.
“As well as identifying plants, we want to learn more about these habitats and the role they play in wider ecosystems. “Jacquemontia and other plants on rock outcrops are able to survive in very harsh conditions, so through them we can learn more about how plants might respond and adapt to climate change.”
According to John Wood of the University of Oxford, collaboration between UK institutions working alongside colleagues in Bolivia is important for the identification and conservation of species.
The new species are named Jacquemontia boliviana, J. cuspidata, J. longipedunculata, J. mairae and J. chuquisacensis.
The study is published in the journal Kew Bulletin.