Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership – Madagascar
Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island but seems to have a whole continent's worth of plant diversity on it. However, habitat loss and overexploitation are posing serious threats to this unique island. Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership is saving seeds for both future security of the species and also for immediate land rehabilitation.
MSB team working in the field in Madagascar (Image: RBG Kew)
Our achievements in Madagascar
- 10% of the country flora are now conserved in the Silo National des Graines Forestieres seed bank
- increased the number of wild species in plantations in Madagascar
- Silo National des Graines Forestieres now has the most important comprehensive wild plant species collection in the country
- building capacity through delivering formal and informal training for scientists in Madagascar
Plant life in Madagascar is under threat
Madagascar is known by conservationists as one of the richest countries in the world in terms of biodiversity and endemism (plants found exclusively in Madagascar and nowhere else in the world).
Of approximately 10,000 vascular plant species, about 80% are thought to be endemic to the island. Vascular refers to plants with a unique tissue structure that enables water and food to circulate effectively.
The value of this flora, both to inhabitants and the global community, is potentially immense. Plants and the eco-systems they sustain are vital to us and the environment. Many plants have valuable uses for human welfare; they provide food, medicines, fuel and shelter.
Despite its importance, the flora is under serious threat. Over 80% of the island has already been stripped of its native vegetation cover and is now species-poor grassland subject to erosion. Unsustainable farming techniques are causing habitat loss and over-exploitation of plant groups including orchids, palms and succulents is putting populations at risk.
Environment and climate
The island of Madagascar lies just off the coast of Mozambique. The natural vegetation ranges from rainforest to grassland to Madagascar's unique Spiny Forest of cactus-like succulent plants.
Saving seeds for the future in Madagascar
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership is working in Madagascar with Silo National des Graines Forestieres (SNGF), the national seed bank.
The broad aim is to collect 1,000 of the rarest and most vulnerable dryland species over 10 years, and preserve them at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, located at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex, and in Madagascar. The fieldwork started in November 2000 and to date over 5 million seeds have been collected from more than 1,000 plant species.
Scientists from Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership are on-hand to provide expert advice to partners in Madagascar on all aspects of the seed conservation process.
We have helped SNGF upgrade its facilities so that it can hold seeds of national wild species of Madagascar. Equipment supplied has included a cold room, back-up generator and laboratory equipment. Part of the collections being stored in this facility are being used for re-introduction for degraded land recovery and planting programmes for community uses and socio-economic needs in Madagascar.
SNGF is currently setting up its seed research collaboration programme on the conservation and sustainable uses of palm and other important species of Madagascar. There are a lot of horticultural interests in these Malagasy species, often in many places in the world, and they are economically important to the country.
In addition, the project has supported two PhDs of Guy Rakotondranony, previous director of SNGF, and Olivarimbola Andrianoelina, both defended at Antananarivo University. These investigations on the biology of Ravenea rivularis and Dalbergia spp. are informing and helping the conservation, management and sustainable use of these species in Madagascar.
Discover more about our work in Madagascar and Mascarenes...
Our team in Madagascar
- Moctar Sacande, MSBP International Co-ordinator
Our partners in Madagascar
- Silo National des Graines Forestieres (SNGF)
Plant stories from Madagascar
Scientific Research and Data
- Aloes of Madagascar
- Madagascar Threatened Plants Project
- Collecting and Conserving Wild Species from Madagascar