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Science & Conservation

Kew's Director of Science to give Michael Faraday Prize Lecture

Photo of Kathy Willis
Wed, 2016-02-10 17:12

Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture

Professor Katherine Willis was awarded the 2015 Michael Faraday Prize for her excellent work in science communication. Kathy’s award reflects, amongst other things, the BBC radio series last year ‘From Roots to Riches’ and the book of the same name. Previous winners of the prize include David Attenborough, Brian Cox and Robert Winston. Each year, the recipient of the prize gives a lecture at the Royal Society.

Scientific Meeting: Growing the Grass Classification

Image showing a grass dominated ecosystem on the Horombe plateau in central Madagascar occupy 20– 40% of Earth.
Thu, 2016-02-04 10:22

Why are grasses important?

The grass family is one of the largest families of flowering plants with around 12,000 species. Grasses feed the world and grasslands cover 20– 40% of the planet. They are more important for mankind than any other group of plants, but are difficult to identify because they have small flowering parts and complex floral morphology which is usually studied by dedicated specialists.

Madagascar's rich and ancient grass flora

Image showing that Madagascar’s pastures are viewed as degraded anthropogenic vegetation but this disturbed ecosystem in Ankaramy Be is dominated by native and endemic grasses.
Thu, 2016-01-28 16:42

Cataloguing grasses of Madagascar shows natural diversity

A new assessment of the grass species of Madagascar has shown a rich and ancient grass flora that evolved on the island. Maria Vorontsova, a taxonomist specialising on tropical grasses (botanical family Poaceae) identified 541 species, including 217 endemics (those found only in Madagascar). A similar number of endemics can be found on other subtropical islands, and different endemic species are restricted to specialised habitats across Madagascar, as expected for natural ecosystems.

More than 140 new species discovered by Kew scientists in 2015

Image showing The top new species scorers at Kew for 2015 all with over 20 species published. Left to right: John Wood, 25 new convolvulaceae; Ian Darbyshire, >20 African acanthaceae, and Eve Lucas, >20 Brazilian myrtaceae.
Wed, 2016-01-06 11:50

Not only is this a great achievement in its own right (documenting global plant and fungal diversity is a strategic priority for Kew) but the benefits of these new species could be huge. With potentially new chemical properties and other important characteristics, these species could contribute to new medicines, crops and essential oils, or be important in their resilience to environmental change.