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.
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.
Sheila has given exemplary unpaid volunteer service to Kew for over 20 years. During this time she has donated over 700 hours of her time and talent to Kew each year and Kew would like to thank her and celebrate this monumental achievement. If one was to quantify her contribution then it would represent a total of about ten years of full time service to Kew and all of it unpaid!
Maria was invited to participate in the UNFCCC COP21, where she gave a presentation and sat on the panel at the Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan Programme side event in Paris on the 9 December 2015.
The symposium, held on 23 November at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, included eight speakers from seven different organisations and covered a range of key topics in the area of crop diversity and food security in a changing climate.