Collecting and Cownserving Wild Species from Madagascar and Building Seed Conservation Capacity
Madagascar is known by conservationists as one of the wild plant species ‘hotspots’. Of approximately 10,000 higher plant species, about 80% are thought to be endemic to the island. The Rio Tinto mining subsidiary, QIT Madagascar Minerals S.A. (QMM), has discovered and proposes to mine economically viable deposits of ilmenite in coastal South Eastern Madagascar. The mining operation will require removal of a significant proportion of remaining littoral forest, an ecosystem recognized as both biologically unique and extremely limited in extent.
Independent studies have demonstrated that these forests are rapidly deteriorating due to pressure from the local people who use the wood for fuel and building materials and who clear parts of the forest for agriculture. It is generally accepted that the remaining littoral forest fragments will be essentially destroyed within the next 2 or 3 decades unless an effective protection strategy is defined and the resources of the mining company properly harnessed to promote biodiversity conservation.
This project seeks to help QMM develop aspects of its conservation and restoration programme through provision of technical information and expertise.
RBG Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Project will carry out studies on the seeds of up to 50 plants designated as priority species by QMM’s restoration programme, including the 27 species endemic to the exploration area.
For each species, the MSBP is:
- Determining seed storage behaviour (orthodoxy/recalcitrance)
- Elucidating germination protocols
- Producing a species conservation strategy
- Providing long term storage (orthodox species only)
MSBP staff have provided training in seed collecting and technical advice regarding seed processing.
QMM, following recommendations from Kew's MSBP staff, recently purchased seed processing equipment. This will greatly enhance the company's ability to process seed effectively.
Nursery at Mandena, QMM
Seed collected on QMM concession
Eligmocarpus cynametroides, endemic species found on the QMM concession