IUCN/SSC Cactus and Succulent Specialist Group (CSSG)

(Source: IUCN, IUCN/SSC)

CSSG is part of the Species Survival Commission of IUCN. As a global network of volunteers in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and South America, CSSG is working towards the conservation and sustainable use of cactus and succulent plants. One of the central goals is to evaluate the current status of the highly vulnerable cactus and succulent flora. The main factor affecting the conservation status of these plants is the destruction of their natural habitat, as a consequence of agricultural development, grassing, urban expansion, road building, mining, etc. However, a significant number of species, corresponding to the rarest, most geographically restricted and horticulturally desirable species, have been greatly affected by illegal collecting activities linked to the international trade.

IOS has been instrumental in promoting succulent plant conservation and became the first plant organization to publish a Code of Conduct, including guidelines for field research, collection maintenance, and treatment of field-collected material, to which all members are requested to adhere.

The IOS Conservation Section provided the basis for the formation of the IUCN/Species Survival Commission's Cactus and Succulent Specialist Group (CSSG) in 1984. CSSG is largely identical with the International Cactaceae Systematics Group (ICSG), formerly known as the IOS Cactaceae Working Party. ICSG is closely associated with IOS and most of its leading members are IOS members.

Currently, the CSSG includes among its membership an assemblage of individuals with a diverse array of personal and professional profiles, ranging from plant amateurs and professional nursery owners to professional botanist. Members of the group have expertise in succulent plant taxonomy, ecology, conservation planning and legislation, information management, and propagation. CSSG is presently headed by IOS member Héctor Hernández (Mexico).

CSSG calls for:

  • Field research to support understanding of the taxonomy and conservation status of succulent plants.

  • Increased in situ protection for succulent plant species through the development of protected area networks.

  • Coordinated ex situ protection of threatened succulent species to support the conservation of species in their natural habitats wherever possible.

  • Effective national legislation of all threatened succulent plant species.

  • Effective trade controls for all wild succulent plant species threatened by exploitation for international commerce.

  • Education on the value of succulent plants, and the need for conservation and sustainable use.

The Cactus and Succulent Specialist Group has undertaken important conservation fieldwork in several countries and produced a fundamental Action Plan compiled by IOS member Sarah Oldfield to ensure long-term survival of endangered taxa of cacti and other succulents. While SSC/CSSG is mainly concerned with in situ conservation, IOS is hoping to make a useful contribution to the ex situ aspect. In association with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), IOS is reviving an earlier IOS initiative to promote the establishment of a network of 'Reserve Collections' of living cacti and other succulent plants and proposing measures to assess and enhance the potential of these collections as a resource for research and conservation.

The developing cacti conservation network also comprises the Global Cactus Assessment (GCA), presently evaluating the conservation status of the world's cacti. This project works in collaboration with the Biodiversity Assessment Unit (established in 2001 between IUCN/SSC, Conservation International and the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science), the Cactus and Succulent Specialist Group (CSSG), and Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). Global Cactus Assessment will contribute to the IUCN/SSC's commitment to provide the world with the most objective, scientifically-based information on the current status of global biodiversity to facilitate conservation action. The project began in May 2008 and involves a network of collaborators who help compile existing data on the estimated 1438 known cactus species.

Cactus and Succulent Plants: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan (14.85MB) pdf_small (1K)

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Gymnocalycium armatum, Bolivia, Tarija, Paichu ©Ingrid & Rainer Mecklenburg

Gymnocalycium armatum
Bolivia, Tarija, Paichu ©Ingrid & Rainer Mecklenburg

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Echinocactus horizonthalonius, Texas, Big Bend National Park ©Boris O. Schlumpberger

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Texas, Big Bend National Park ©Boris O. Schlumpberger