Botanic Gardens Conservation International
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Global Cactus Assessment underway

9 July 2008

The Global Cactus Assessment (GCA) is evaluating the conservation status of the world’s cacti. The project is based in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield and works in collaboration with BGCI, the IUCN/SSC - CI/CABS Biodiversity Assessment Unit and the Cactus and Succulent Specialist Group (CSSG).

 Parodia rechensis

 The endangered Parodia rechensis growing

in the Caxias do Sul Botanic Garden in Brazil.

 The principal aim of the project is to provide basic information on the species to facilitate conservation action.

The plant family Cactaceae has approximately 1438 species, and is almost entirely endemic to the Americas; from British Columbia and Alberta in Canada, to Patagonia in Argentina.
One of the most striking features of cacti is their high levels of endemism at both generic and species levels. Brazil and Mexico have the highest levels of generic endemism, at 40% and 30% respectively. Astoundingly, 80% of all cacti occurring in Chile, 78% in Mexico, and 74% of Brazilian species are found within these respective countries and nowhere else in the world. Indeed, many species are known from areas covering only a few square kilometres.

Cacti have long been regarded as one of the most highly threatened plant families. The most significant anthropogenic pressures are agricultural development, mining, overgrazing and illegal trade. Cactus species are slow-growing, highly vulnerable to disturbance in their early stages, and have low recruitment rates, which often makes the recovery of populations extremely difficult. Recent climate change projections suggest that in many regions this will pose an additional pressure; the North American Southwest will turn more arid, challenging the adaptation capabilities of cacti to more drastic droughts.

To date the threat status of only 157 (11%) of all cacti species has been assessed using the 1994 IUCN criteria. However, of these, 111 species are categorised as under a high risk of extinction in the near future.

For project details, or if you have information that could contribute to this important assessment, please contact us here at BGCI on

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