Overview

Distribution

Range Description

This species is endemic to Mexico where it is widely distributed in the states of Aguascalientes, Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Veracruz and Zacatecas (Hernández et al. 2004), occurring between 1,200 and 2,600 m (Pilbeam and Bowdery 2005).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The species occurs in xerophyllous scrub, oak forests and submontane scrub.

The development of an adult plant from seed takes decades, but a much faster growth can be achieved with stems produced by branching when the apical meristem is disturbed (Del Castillo and Trujillo 1991).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
Guadalupe Martínez, J., Sánchez , E. & Bárcenas Luna, R.

Reviewer/s
Hilton-Taylor, C., Goettsch, B.K. & Schipper, J.

Contributor/s

Justification
Ferocactus histrix has clearly undergone a significant population decline in the last 30 to 100 years (one generation is estimated to be at least 30 years) as a result of widespread over-collection of mature individuals, flowers and fruits and loss of plants through clearance of habitat for urban expansion. The use of this species has also resulted in diminished potential for re-establishment because of the removal of flowers and seeds which is further exacerbated by over-grazing by cattle and goats. The percentage reduction is not known with any certainty, but given the levels of usage over much of the range, it seems reasonable to suspect that there has been more than a 20% population reduction over the past 100 years. The species is therefore listed as Near Threatened at it almost qualifies for a threatened listing under criterion A2cd.

If more accurate information were available on the generation length and percentage reduction, it is possible that this species would qualify for listing in a more threatened category. Further research is needed on the use and trade of this species, on the effects of the over-exploitation on subpopulations and on the species generally. There is an urgent need for further research on 1) the rates of population decline due to over-harvesting, 2) the generation length and 3) demographic and age structure as a result of over exploitation.

The Mexican Authorities have taken steps to reduce the impacts of over-collection on the wild population. The species is protected by law, and the candy may only be sold commercially if it is from certified cultivated plants. There is also a commercial substitute available for making similar candy and this may help to reduce the pressure on the wild population.
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Population

Population
This was one of the most abundant barrel cactus species (Del Castillo and Trujillo 1991), however, the population is suspected to be in serious decline due to over-exploitation and the current population size is unknown. In addition to the direct exploitation, goats and cattle degrade the restricted microhabitats reducing the germination and establishment of plants (Del Castillo 1986). This has resulted in a significant decrease in the population size of F. histrix, in particular in overgrazed areas (Del Castillo 1987). The density of F. histrix is also reduced up to one-third in disturbed sites compared to more pristine-adjacent sites (Del Castillo 1987).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
In addition to the direct exploitation, goats and cattle degrade the microhabitats reducing the success of germination and seedling establishment (Del Castillo 1986). Human consumption of adult plants for producing "dulces de acitron" (candy) was a significant threat in many areas, but especially near human population centres, as this requires the destruction of mature plants to obtain the parenchyma. This practice is now banned by law, and the candy may only be sold commercially if it is produced from cultivated plants.

In recent years the expansion of the city of Querétaro has resulted in the destruction of the Bajío tropical dry forest in areas where thousands of plants of this species occurred. There has been some mitigation but the damage is irreversible (Sánchez et al. 2011).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions

The species is legally protected in Mexico by the national list of species at risk of extinction, NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, where it is listed under category “subject to special protection” (Pr; SEMARNAT 2010). The sale of the candy is now prohibited unless provenance from non-wild sources can be proved. It is also listed on CITES Appendix II. The species is recorded from protected areas. Research is needed on the effects of the current over exploitation. Habitat protection and artificial propagation are needed to avoid the extinction of this species (Del Castillo and Trujillo 1991).

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