Terrestrial flora of Malpelo Island, Colombia, Eastern Tropical Pacific
Malpelo Island is located 380km off the mainland continental coast of Colombia, in the Pacific Ocean. Several geological, ecological, and zoological studies, both marine and terrestrial, have been conducted in this island. Despite some marginal comments on some publications, no single specific survey has been devoted to botany so far. In order to make a floristic inventory of the terrestrial flora of this island, three field trips were made in 2010 to collect vascular plants, mosses, and lichens, as well as data on their distribution within the island. We collected and identified 25 species of lichens, two species of vascular plants and one moss. Lichens were the most diverse group found, including records of four new genera (Endocarpon, Fuscidea, Lecanographa and Verrucaria) and 13 new species for Colombia. The high lichen richness on Malpelo might be explained by their efficient form of asexual reproduction (soredia and isidia), that may have facilitated their transport to the island by migrating birds or wind. Once on the island, it is possible that lichens persist by being chemically protected against herbivores. The great number of new generic and species records for Colombia is explained by the low number of studies in saxicolous lichens conducted so far in the country, particularly on coastal areas and remote islands. Only two species of vascular plants were collected, a grass, Paspalum sp., and a fern, Pityrogramma calomelanos, and both of them correspond to new determinations for Malpelo. A moss species previously reported but with no positive identification was collected and identified as Octoblepharum albidum. Other species previously reported, for example, some species of shrubs, were not observed. The low number of vascular plants is probably due to a combination of soil conditions and herbivory by land crabs. This study is the first complete inventory of the flora of Malpelo and is a starting and reference point for future comparisons among islands in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.
Keywords: Colombia, Malpelo Island, vascular plants, Bryophyte, saxicolous lichens