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  Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society

Thursday May 4, 2017 from 7 - 9 pm

"Prickly prospects for cacti under climate change"

Presented by Michiel Pillet

Note the meeting location:

Sky Islands Public High School, 6000 E. 14th Street, Tucson, AZ 85711

Using almost 40,000 records of individual cacti, and information on climate, land use, and seed dispersal, Michiel made predictions of the current and future ranges of hundreds of species. This allowed him to assess changes in range size for some of our favorite species. Such information is helpful for conservation biologists, who need to decide how to spend limited funding. It can also help with discovery of new species and populations. For example, based on known locations of the rare Mammillaria luethyi, are there other areas predicted by the computer models to be suitable but from which this species is not known? Or, where will prime habitat for saguaro be located fifty years from now?


Recently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) completed an assessment of the conservation status of 1,478 species of cacti. They found that 31% of these species were threatened, a proportion higher than for birds and mammals. The most significant threats were found to be agriculture, development, and collection of plants in the wild. Climate change was noticeably absent from this list, but very few cactus studies have addressed this topic. Does climate change worsen the outlook for cacti?

Using tens of thousands of geographic records, Michiel assessed the potential impacts of climate change for several hundred species, including iconic taxa such as saguaro, Ariocarpus retusus, and Arizona queen of the night. Please join him in an exploration of the future of our prickly friends. Along the way, we'll learn about climate change, focus on the stories of some of the 99 species considered to be critically endangered, and discuss how we can all play a role in their conservation.

Michiel grew up in Belgium, and became fascinated by succulents as a teenager. After high school, he moved to Montana for college, unfortunately having to leave his first plant collection behind. He and his wife just moved to Arizona last year. Michiel is a doctoral student at University of Arizona, where he works primarily on computer models with application to conservation. Having been welcomed warmly by several members of TCSS, he quickly rebuilt his succulent collection, with several hundred plants and thousands of seedlings. He is working toward starting a succulent non-profit whose missions are conservation and making rare species more available to the public. Besides succulents, he is also interested in reptiles, insects, amphibians, and carnivorous plants.

Please be sure to come to the May 4th program and introduce yourself to Michiel. This should be a very good program that needs our attention. Also enjoy the refreshments, free plants and so much more.

Another way to use the occurrence data is the creation of diversity maps. Why are cacti so diverse in the Brazilian Highlands? Where did cacti originate? Those are some of the questions such maps can drive us to think about.


Free Plant Giveaway

You can view the plants on this page

May Refreshments

Those with family names beginning with
J - R
, please bring your choice of refreshments to the
meeting. Your generous sharing will
be greatly appreciated and enjoyed!

Meeting Schedule

Get a map and directions from Google Maps

TCSS reserves the right to change dates and/or program should it be necessary.