FIELD GENE BANK
The Malagasy flora is both exceptionally rich (14,000 species) and also highly endemic (>90%). However, it is also very threatened by anthropogenic activities (e.g. shifting cultivation, wild fires, charcoal production etc.). Between 1950 and 2000 40% of remaining forest was destroyed and forest loss continues today at a similar pace. Most forest outside of protected areas will be lost in the next decade. An estimated 14% the flora is not included in any protected area and many of these excluded species occur as tiny populations in small, degraded fragments of natural vegetation where they are exceptionally vulnerable. Ideally, these habitats should be conserved but this rarely occurs because of their small size and degraded nature. Thus, the most viable alternative to extinction for these species will be ex-situ conservation.
To contribute to the ex-situ conservation of the Malagasy flora, we are valorising the existing capacity at five of our site-based conservation projects to create mini botanical gardens (or field gene banks) adjacent to the protected area. Here plants of Dalbergia (rosewoods) and Diospyros (ebonies) originating from doomed forest fragments in the landscape surrounding the protected area can be grown and conserved.
To achieve this outcome our site-based botanists systematically visits doomed forest fragments and collect seed samples of fruiting plants of rosewood and ebony that they encounter. Each seed sample is vouchered with an herbarium specimen so that the parent plant can be expertly identified. The number of this voucher also provides the seed sample, and the plants resulting from these seeds, with a unique code that anchors the collection in the project’s database. The nurserymen/women associated with the project accession each of the seed samples as they arrive from the field. The seeds are cleaned and sown and the seedlings growing from the seeds nurtured until they are large enough to planted-out into the field gene bank. Each seedling planted is tagged, weeded and monitored. The results of this work, to date, are presented in the files accessible by the links below.