The Implications of Soil salinity for Endangered Key Tree Cactus Survival in a Changing Climate

Friday, March 9, 2012

Former Fairchild field botanist Joie Goodman with colleagues from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Desert Botanic Garden and University of Miami published an account (PloS ONE Vol. 7, Issue 3, e32528, March 2012) of the impact of increased soil salinity on the federally endangered Key Tree Cactus (Pilosocereus robinii) growing in the Florida Keys.  They found that high mortality in the lower Keys was associated with high soil salinity.  This was further supported by laboratory results which indicated that seedlings growing from a lower Keys mom suffered reduced growth under high salinity.  Interestingly, these high levels of salt actually improved growth of seedlings from another mother cactus.  Ongoing molecular genetic work being conducted by graduate student Tonya Fontinos, under direction of Dr. Eric von Wettberg will help disentangle the relationship of these two mother cacti. Image below (right): Joie Goodman collecting fruits of the Key Tree Cactus.