Rarity up in the mountain: Ecological niche modeling, phenology, and reproductive biology of the most commercialized Masdevallia species

Publication Name

Journal for Nature Conservation


Knowledge of how natural and anthropogenic factors can limit the distribution of rare species is key to develop conservation strategies. We show data on how both factors potentially affect the distribution of a rare high Andean orchid. We chose Masdevallia coccinea as a model because it is endangered and the most commercialized species of the entire genus. Using ecological niche modeling, we confirm its rarity, with a restricted potential occurrence equivalent to only 0.00005 % of South America, 0.0003 % of the Andes, and 0.0009 % of Colombia. We projected the future potential occurrence of M. coccinea and found that it can have a reduction of 43.49 % in the best-case scenario and 89.06 % in the worst-case scenario in 2100. We describe the flowering and fruiting phenologies and demonstrate that the precipitation two months before may determine the first one. Masdevallia coccinea is a rewardless species and, unlike most Pleurothallidinae species, we show that it is self-compatible but non-autonomous selfer. Thus, it is dependent on biotic pollination, performed only by Leucophenga sp. (Drosophilidae: Diptera) which has low efficiency (8.6 % of fruit set). This is the first pollinator report for the genus. While self-compatibility may be related to reproductive assurance, apparently inbreeding depression may affect populations since selfed fruits had less viable seeds. Nevertheless, self-pollination can be avoided by the retention of the anther cap on pollinia, giving more time until the pollinator flies away to another flower. We consider that the rarity of M. coccinea may be a result of both anthropogenic (habitat loss, climate change, and overcollection) and natural factors (high elevation distribution, self-compatibility, rewardless strategy, pollinator specificity, and low fruit set). The several new facets investigated here can be used for future conservation strategies of this emblematic species as well as other high Andean threatened species.

Open Access Status

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Article Number


Funding Sponsor

Universidad Industrial de Santander



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