Mapping the world's plant life with our GIS unit
A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a package of hardware and software that allows scientists to view, question and interpret spatially-referenced data in ways that reveal relationships and trends. Kew’s GIS unit plays an important role in making maps that show distributions of particular species or types of vegetation.
Mapping plant life with Google Earth API - Families & genera data
Satellite images provide an overview of an area's vegetation. Field scientists then visit the location in question to work out what the different colours and textures seen in the image represent on the ground.
Mapping vegetation distribution patterns over time plays a crucial role in showing if populations are expanding or shrinking. This information can then be used by authorities help guide plant and habitat conservation decisions.
Mapping Madagascar’s rich flora
Kew's Global Information System (GIS) unit has worked extensively on a project to map Madagascar’s vegetation.
This Indian Ocean island, located off the coast of Mozambique, is one of the world’s top ten hotspots for biodiversity. Madagascar has a vast number of unique species. Of the island's approximately 10,000 native plant species recorded so far, an estimated 90% (about 8,000) are thought to be unique to the island.
Sadly, Madagascar’s flora is under serious threat. Over 80% of the island has already been stripped of its native flora. The island’s rich biological diversity, coupled with the threats facing the remaining natural flora, make it one of the world’s highest priorities for conservation. Discover more about Kew's work in Madagascar
Pinpointing the best areas to conserve
In response to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Madagascar has developed an Environmental Action Plan. Part of this Action Plan is to increase the number of protected areas.
Kew scientists have contributed to this goal by helping to find the most species-rich areas. They began by creating a digital geology map, as Madagascar’s vegetation is closely related to the underlying rocks and soils. They then studied the areas that contained the greatest diversity of species.
By recognising the type of geology on which the biodiverse areas of vegetation thrived, they produced a map of the remaining primary vegetation, classified by the underlying geology. This is now being used by Madagascar’s conservation authorities to identify areas of high priority for conservation.
Get involved - Adopt a Seed, Save a Species
We have successfully banked 10% of the world's wild plant species and we have set our sights on saving 25% by 2020.
Without plants there could be no life on earth, and yet every day another four plant species face extinction. Too often when we hear these kind of statistics there is little that we can do as individuals, but thanks to the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership and the Adopt a Seed, Save a Species campaign there is something that you can do to ensure the survival of a plant species.
Scientific Data & Research
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Science & Conservation news
21 Feb 2014
André Schuiteman, senior researcher in orchids at Kew, relates the discovery by the intrepid Evelyn Cheesman of one of the very few blue-flowered epiphytic orchids, Dendrobium azureum, which he recently described as a new species.
14 Feb 2014
Madeleine Groves, the CITES Implementation Officer at Kew, describes how the application of science can help combat illegal wildlife trade.
08 Nov 2012
A new study from Kew suggests that Arabica coffee could be extinct in the wild within 70 years.