Palumbo, M.D., J.P. Fleming, O.A. Monsegur and F.J. Vilella. 2016. A GIS Model of Habitat Suitability for Solanum conocarpum (Solanaceae) in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Caribbean Naturalist 36:1-10.
The shrub Solanum conocarpum Dunal (Solanaceae) is a small shrub endemic to coastal scrub and upland dry forests on the island of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, and is considered as a candidate plant species to be listed pursuant to the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Despite efforts to discover new populations by local conservationists and biologists from Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. National Park Service, only eight populations have been documented to date. Of these, six populations occur within the boundaries of Virgin Islands National Park (VINP), one of which is located on the periphery of the park. Information is needed to prioritize locations for future surveys, determine possible reintroduction sites and assess potential habitat in private lands. Therefore, we incorporated environmental characteristics (vegetation cover, soil associations, elevation, and VINP boundaries) found at three of the known populations (Nanny Point, John’s Folly, and Brown’s Bay Trail) into a Geographical Information System (GIS) model to create a habitat suitability map for the island of St. John. A total of 1159.38 hectares of highly suitable and moderately suitable habitat was found on the island of St. John. Of these, 714.96 hectares (61.66 %) are found within the boundaries of VINP. However, areas of suitable habitat were found on private lands, namely the East End peninsula and lower elevation scrub forest on Johns Folly Bay and Sabbat Point. Given the high development pressure on private lands at lower elevations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the presence of invasive browsers on the island, and potential seed predation by native hermit crabs (Coenobita clypeatus), the habitat suitability model provides important information on potential locations for future surveys and restoration sites to assist recovery actions for the species.