Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership – Mauritius
Seed banks provide an insurance policy against the extinction of plant species in the wild and provide options for their future use. This is good news for our conservation efforts in Mauritius where in some cases only handfuls of individual plants exist.
Seed Bank staff collecting in Mauritius (Image: Steve Alton, RBG Kew)
Plant life in Mauritius is under threat
Many plants species in Mauritius are not found anywhere else in the world. A significant number of these ‘endemic’ plants are represented by only a handful of individuals, making them very precious. Of the 671 native plant species in Mauritius, 357 are classified rare, vulnerable or endangered.
Environment and climate
The original vegetation of the island comprised palm savannah, low altitude dry forest and upland wet forest. However, almost all native plant communities are now badly degraded by introduced species and clearance for sugar cane.
Also, alien plants such as Chinese guava and privet have colonised gaps in native communities and quickly out-competed the native species. Deer, pigs and monkeys cause widespread damage to vegetation, but rats and introduced invertebrates also affect regeneration.
Saving seeds for the future in Mauritius
With such a large proportion of rare, vulnerable and endangered plant species there is a clear and urgent need for seed conservation.
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership in Mauritius is in full-flow with an estimated 300 native plant species having been collected and banked so far. Teams from Kew are sharing their expert knowledge of seed collecting and banking so that partners in Mauritius can develop and strengthen their conservation activities.
In July 2006, funding from the Darwin Initiative enabled the creation of a wild species seed bank in Mauritius. It has also been possible to engage two members of staff who are responsible for collecting, cleaning and banking samples of seed.
Teams from Kew have helped train 24 members of staff in seed collecting and processing techniques. It is hoped that ex situ conservation of the flora of Mauritius will continue.
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Our team in Mauritius
- Steve Alton, MSBP International Co-ordinator
Our partners in Mauritius
- The National Parks and Conservation Service of the Ministry of Agro-Industry & Fisheries
- The Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute (which houses the Mauritian herbarium)
- The National Threatened Plants Technical Committee