New, carnivorous plant species found in Svalbard

New, carnivorous plant species found in Svalbard

Top image: Alpine butterwort (Pinguicula alpina L.) in Ringhorndalen, Wijdefjorden. Photo: Anna Vader/UNIS. 

This summer UNIS biologists found a plant species never before observed in Svalbard. And, to top it all, it is a carnivorous plant. We are pleased to introduce Pinguicula alpina L.!

3 October 2013
Text: Eva Therese Jenssen / UNIS

In the beginning of July a field party from the UNIS Department of Arctic Biology stumbled across a new species never before found in Svalbard: Pinguicula alpina L. (alpine butterwort in English).

A large population of alpine butterwort was found in Ringhorndalen, situated at the eastern side of Wijdefjorden at 79°N.

The discovery was done by Anna Vader, a marine biologist (!) at UNIS. She was part of the field party that went to register plants for the MicroFUN project.

First “new” plant species observed in almost 40 years
Alpine butterwort is a carnivorous plant native to high latitudes and altitudes throughout Eurasia, especially found in mountainous regions. Native to cold climates, it is a temperate species, forming prostrate rosettes of green to red leaves and white flowers in the summer.

This is a relatively heat-loving species, and the population registered in Ringhorndalen seems to be its northernmost known site.

It is almost 40 years since the last time a new plant species was registered in Svalbard. Needless to say, UNIS botanist Pernille Bronken Eidesen is thrilled by the find.

An unexplored arctic oasis
– This is just fantastic, Eidesen says. She has been doing fieldwork in Svalbard for several years, but never discovered a new species in Svalbard. That is until she and her field party went to Ringhorndalen in July.

Ringhorndalen, Wijdefjorden, Svalbard.

Ringhorndalen, Wijdefjorden, Svalbard. Photo: Pernille Bronken Eidesen/UNIS

Eidesen and her colleagues collected samples of the species and sent them to the herbarium in Oslo. DNA samples were also collected.

The last decade, several exciting registrations of new species and populations have been made in this area of Wijdefjorden, especially of rare and “temperate” species.

The finding further underscores the reported unique climate and soil conditions in this area. The inner part of Wijdefjorden in general, and Ringhorndalen in particular, seems to represent an arctic oasis, with remnant vegetation from the warmer postglacial period ending about 5000 years ago.

– This area has not been investigated very much by botanists, and it shows that we need to investigate this location further, and to map the area properly, says Eidesen.

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