Conserving the legume giants of Tropical Africa
Kew scientists are documenting the giant legume trees that dominate the forests of Tropical Africa. Among three genera recently studied, 25% of the species are new to science.
17 May 2011
A new species of Hymenostegia from Korup National Park, Cameroon collected by Kew’s Laura Pearce (Image: Xander van der Burgt)
Forests contain 80% of terrestrial biodiversity. The importance to mankind of their sustainability has been highlighted by the UN in their declaration of 2011 as the International Year of Forests. The forests of Tropical Africa contain more species of Leguminosae (legumes) than any other flowering plant family, and tree species of legume subfamily Caesalpinioideae often dominate the rainforest. Yet the conservation of Africa’s forests is hampered by the lack of taxonomic knowledge of these legume giants.
This taxonomic impediment is being addressed through a series of revisionary studies produced by Kew’s Tropical African Caesalpinioid Legume research program, which is undertaken in partnership with the Wageningen Branch of the National Herbarium of the Netherlands and with other international collaborators. A monograph of the caesalpinioid genus Berlinia has just been published in Systematic Botany Monographs and follows a recently published revision of Talbotiella, another caesalpinioid African forest genus, in Kew Bulletin. The next publication in this series will be a revision of the genus Hymenostegia.
Together these three taxonomic works alone document in detail 47 legume tree species, 28 of which are threatened and 12 of which are new scientific discoveries.
Item from Dr Barbara Mackinder (Legume Systematist, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)
Originally published in Kew Scientist, issue 39
Mackinder, Barbara A. & R. Toby Pennington. 2011. Monograph of Berlinia (Leguminosae). Systematic botany Monographs 91. The American Society of Plant Taxonomists. 117 pp.
Mackinder, Barbara, Jan Wieringa & Xander van der Burgt. 2010. A revision of the genus Talbotiella Baker f. (Caesalpinioideae: Leguminosae). Kew Bulletin 65 (3): 401-420.
Scientific Research and Data
- Kew Science Project - Systematics of the Tropical African Genus Berlinia
- Kew Science Project - Systematics and Evolution of the Tropical African Genus Hymenostegia
- Kew Sceince Project - New Phylogeny of the Caesalpinioideae, Leguminosae
- Kew species profile: Berlinia korupensis
- Kew species profile: Talbotiella velutina
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