Preliminary red-list assessment: VU C2a(i) (Vulnerable)
Urocystis galanthi is a host specific smut fungus which infects leaves of Galanthus nivalis (Amaryllidaceae) (Vánky 2011).
Galanthus nivalis is a bulbous, ephemeroid, winter-to-spring flowering plant. It is endemic to Europe, native to a large area of the continent: eastwards from the Pyrenees and northern Spain to the Ukraine, and southwards from the southern part of Germany and Poland to southern Italy and the Balkan Peninsula. Furthermore, G. nivalis is widely introduced and naturalised in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, central and northern parts of Germany, Sweden, and Norway. It is an emblematic plant, well known to people in Europe. However, many native subpopulations of G. nivalis occur in small relictual forest/woodlands and further loss of suitable habitats would lead to a definite decline in the species. Climate change is also likely to threaten it due to the loss of suitable micro- and macro-habitats, where it is currently found (Crook & Davis 2013). Galanthus nivalis is a plant listed under European and international policy instruments, as follows: under Annex V of the Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive), Appendix II of the CITES, Annex B of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulation (338/97), and European Red List of vascular plants (ranked as NT, Bilz et al. 2011). The species is also listed as Near Threatened, Vulnerable or even Critically Endangered in several European countries and is included on nearly every country’s Red List, suggesting the subpopulations in each of the countries are under threat. Harvesting and trade of the species is still occurring on a local scale, even though international trade is restricted by CITES. Because of the mentioned factors threatening the population of G. nivalis, this plant is included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, ranked as Near Threatened with a possibility the category to be changed to Vulnerable (VU A3cd) in the near future (Crook & Davis 2013).
The smut fungus, Urocystis galanthi, is a very rare species. For the first time, it was collected in 1921, in Zehlendorf (Berlin), on cultivated common snowdrop. In Berlin, this fungus has not been found more and it was considered as extinct there (Scholz & Scholz 2005). Later, U. galanthi was reported from Germany (Saxony-Anhalt: Ballenstedt, Ostrau, Wiehe, and Bad Kösen – Jage 2007, 2008; Scholz & Scholz 2012; Baden-Württemberg: Tübingen, Botanic Garden – Nagler 1987, and Pfitzingen; Bavaria: Dillingen an der Donau, in the town and Capuchin Monastery Garden – Nagler 1987; Scholz & Scholz 1988), Austria (Niederösterreich: Klosterneuburg – Zwetko & Blanz 2004; Lower Austria, Bezirk Wiener Neustadt, Lichtenwörth – Koller 2013), Slovakia (Bratislava, Vánky 1985), and Romania (Snagov, Săvulescu 1957). Having a total 12 localities, the smut fungus has considerably more limited distribution compared to the distribution of its host plant. Considering that Galanthus nivalis is non-native in the predominant number of its German localities (with few exceptions in south Germany) but a naturalized, synanthropic or cultivated plant (Netzwerk Phytodiversität Deutschland 2013), it can be assumed that in Germany the cases of infected common snowdrop are connected with synanthropic plants. However, the survival of the common snowdrop is threatened in nature due to habitat destruction and collecting for decoration and/or for the horticultural trade (Crook & Davis 2013), and from a conservation perspective, the assessment of this species and its smut fungus occurring in man-made habitats is also important. In Germany, the relatively high number of the synanthropic localities of the common snowdrop (Netzwerk Phytodiversität Deutschland 2013) contrasts with the very limited number of the localities of Urocystis galanthi. The reason for the rarity of the smut fungus in Germany is unknown but having such small number of subpopulations, the fungus is more likely to be impacted by human activities that alter and disturb habitats or by chance environmental events. The limited number of localities of this species in itself is a threat. It is included in the Red list of phytoparasitic fungi in Germany, as Rare (Foitzik 1996).
In the Austrian localities of U. galanthi, the host plant is native. One of the Austrian localities and the Slovak locality are situated in Danube hardwood floodplain forests, a habitat which is threatened due to forest management practices.
Preliminary red-list assessment: VU C2a(i) (Vulnerable)
This is a threatened fungus which is host-specific and depends on its host plant that in itself is ranked as a near threatened species. Twelve localities of the smut fungus are known but the number of the locations should be considered as less than 10 because the host plant in the four localities in Saxony-Anhalt being in settlements or their surroundings is threatened by identical threats (human activities that alter and disturb habitats, and chance environmental events). In the man-made habitats (settlements and their surroundings) in Central and East Europe, the synanthropic plants are strongly influenced by human activities. Due to the beauty of the common snowdrop and because it flowers when little else is in winter, in such localities the plant is being collected for decoration. The gatherings from Dillingen an der Donau, including that from the Capuchin Monastery Garden, should be accepted as collected from one location. The localities in hardwood floodplain forests in Austria and near Bratislava also should be considered as belonging to one location.
Urocystis galanthi fulfills C-criterion for a species with a small population (number of mature individuals estimated not to exceed 10 000) and meets VU C2, regarding subcriterium a (i). Assuming that each locality for this species is a subpopulation, and the number of undiscovered localities cannot be much higher than that of the known ones, because this is a fully recorded species from countries which have long traditions in the investigation of smut fungi, the potential number of the subpopulations is estimated to be 24–30. Each smutted plant is regarded as a single individual of the fungus, and each locality/subpopulation is unlikely to contain more than about 150 smutted plants.
Urocystis galanthi is known to date from twelve localities in Germany (Saxony-Anhalt: Ballenstedt, Ostrau, Wiehe, and Bad Kösen; Baden-Württemberg: Tübingen, Botanic Garden, and Pfitzingen; Bavaria: Dillingen an der Donau, in the town and Capuchin Monastery Garden), Austria (Niederösterreich: Klosterneuburg; Lower Austria, Bezirk Wiener Neustadt, Lichtenwörth), Slovakia (Bratislava), and Romania (Snagov,) (Săvulescu 1957; Vánky 1985; Nagler 1987; Zwetko & Blanz 2004; Jage 2007, 2008; Scholz & Scholz 2012; Koller 2013).
There is no specific information on population size. Decline of the AOO of the smut fungus due to collection of common snowdrop for decoration and/or for the horticultural trade, and habitat destruction.
Population Trend: Deteriorating
The sori of Urocystis galanthi are developed in leaves, sheaths and scapes of Galanthus nivalis. The fungus is host-specific and depends on its host plant.
Galanthus nivalis is a bulbous, ephemeroid, winter-to-spring flowering plant, frequently occurring in moist conditions in deciduous woodland. Also occurring in meadows, pasture, amongst scrub, near rivers and on stony slopes, particularly on calcareous soils.
The host plant and its smut fungus are threatened in nature due to collection of common snowdrop and habitat destruction. Galanthus nivalis is one of the most frequently cultivated bulbous plants, and also one of the most important alkaloid-containing plant. The plant is collecting for decoration and/or for the horticultural trade. Harvesting and trade of the species is still occurring on a local scale, even though international trade is restricted by CITES.
The host plant, Galanthus nivalis, is listed under European and international policy instruments, as follows: under Annex V of the Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive), Appendix II of the CITES, Annex B of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulation (338/97), and European Red List of vascular plants (ranked as NT, Bilz et al. 2011), and IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ranked as Near Threatened). The species is also included in the Red Data Books of Austria and Romania, and on nearly every country’s Red List, suggesting the subpopulations in each of the countries are under threat.
Conservation of the host plant is needed. Ex situ conservation of the plant will not necessarily protect the fungus: in situ conservation is needed.
Further information is needed about population levels of the fungus.
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