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Vellozia sessilis (Vellozia sessilis)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 232532023

Searching Vellozia sessilis, a charismatic plant endemic to the highlands of the Cerrado biodiversity hotspot

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 232532023) - Vellozia sessilis  - Awarded $5,000 on October 12, 2023

Vellozia sessilis is endemic to the Chapada dos Veadeiros in the highlands of the Cerrado in central Brazil. The region has been highly threatened by deforestation and plant species extinctions are projected to increase as a consequence of on going habitat loss. Because of its species richness, high levels of endemism and anthropic pressure, the Cerrado is considered one of the 35 global biodiversity hotspots for conservation.

V. sessilis grows on rocky habitats next to small streams, where it forms dense patches. Its flowers stand out in the environment because they are white and have a long tube. It belongs to the popular "Canelas-de-Ema" group, one of the most charismatic plant groups in the Cerrado. Currently, only two populations of V. sessilis have been recorded, one in Serra da Baliza (type population) and a second population located 8 km away from the first record to the south of Alto Paraíso de Goiás. Because of its rarity, small geographic range and limited number of locations, the species was classified as Endangered, a status that remained in the present day according to the CNCFlora, and ratified by National List of Endangered Species of Brazil in 2022.

The objectives of this case study are as follows:

1) Perform fieldwork to search for new populations of V. sessilis and collect data on population size, type of environment, and possible associations with other species of Vellozia in the same area;

2) Estimate the geographic range of V. sessilis using new occurrence records and habitat suitability maps based on the classification of satellite images; Estimate the rate of habitat loss within the species range over the last 40 years using GIS techniques;

3) Re-evaluate and update of the conservation status of V. sessilis according to IUCN criteria, based data obtained, and submit results of this assessment to the IUCN board;

4) Collect seeds to perform germination tests and ex situ conservation, in order to establish a protocol for V. sessilis seed conservation that will allow the long-term preservation of this species;

5) Integrate our findings with the National Action Plan for the High Tocantins Basin (CNCFlora) by sharing relevant data on demography, ecology, habitat quality, and threats, and indicate actions to protect the species;

6) Promote the integration of scientific knowledge and local communities (citizen-science), in order to obtain new records of V. sessilis. Raise public awareness about the conservation of the flora.

Project documents