There’s more than one mistletoe in the World – indeed there up to 1500 of them – and just because the UK and northern European species is not at risk of extinction (see blog entry earlier today – below or click here) doesn’t mean we can be reassured about all the others.
There is concern at present about mistletoe species in Pilbara (see map left), a region of Western Australia, where changes in burning regimes are limiting the ability of mistletoe populations to recover.
Because mistletoes have short-lived seeds (our own species’ seeds can’t be kept in the Kew Seedbank because they are so short-lived), and need to be spread by birds, they are slow to recolonise large fire-damaged areas, and so are considered to be at risk of extinction where fire-damage is extensive and/or frequent. The Pilbara mistletoes support a variety of insect species, particularly butterflies, and so are important as a biodiversity resource.
The full story though, like the story about UK mistletoe, isn’t quite that simple. We’re talking here about local extinction – not national extinction – the official phrase is ‘sub-regional extinction’. There’s ‘no evidence of an extinction threat at the bioregional or national level’. So this is bad, but not as bad as full extinction.
And it is an interesting contrast to the UK mistletoe ‘extinction’ stories being bandied about. This one could also become misquoted and spun as something more apocalyptic, and this one is also about a predicted future – it hasn’t happened yet, but probably will in coming years.