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Mapping One Of The Most Bio-Diverse Countries Of The World

(From Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

Oct. 8, 2007—The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and its partner organisations have used state-of-the art remote sensing technology and methodologies to produce the first vegetation atlas of Madagascar, one of the most bio-diverse and unique countries in the world.

This comprehensive atlas is the culmination of over 20 years of conservation work led by botanical and conservation institutions in Madagascar and abroad. It is unique in Madagascar in that it provides a modern twist, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to supply information that can be used to protect and manage Madagascar's diverse flora in a sustainable way.

Home to more than 10,000 plant species, 90% of Madagascar's plants occur nowhere else in the world - their protection and survival is vital. The flora of Madagascar is extremely threatened not only by habitat destruction for agriculture, fuelwood and building materials but also, in the case of certain species, by over-collection for the horticultural trade.

This pioneering atlas warns us that only 18 percent of Madagascar's native vegetation remains intact and that a third of Madagascar's primary vegetation has disappeared since the 1970s. It provides an insight into which type of primary vegetation is rarest, which is currently disappearing fastest and which needs to be protected. The atlas incorporates detailed consultations with the conservation community to ensure that the information it provides is of maximum relevance and utility to conservation planners and managers.

The Madagascar Vegetation Mapping Project, which has resulted in the production of this atlas, was funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and managed jointly by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Missouri Botanical Garden, and Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science. The atlas has already been used to help prioritise areas for protection through the Durban Vision Process which aims to substantially expand the protected areas of Madagascar. In the future it will be the baseline against which the effectiveness of the protected areas network will be measured.

GIS can be used by botanists to map vegetation and species distributions according to physical and climatic parameters. Information on altitudinal ranges, geological preferences, and climatic constraints that relate to species distributions, have proved to be important in the planning and management of biodiversity conservation. Without this vital information, protecting and managing Madagascar's flora in a sustainable way is an impossible feat.

Further information:

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been running GIS projects for over a decade (the first started in 1988). Building on the success of several projects (The Madagascar GIS project was one of the most notable) the GIS unit was established in 1998 to facilitate the targeted use of GIS, for more information on this please visit www.kew.org/gis/index.html.

Atlas of the Vegetation of Madagascar Vegetation / Atlas de la Vegetation de Madagascar

Authors: Justin Moat and Paul Smith
Imprint: Kew Publishing
Specification: 420 x 297mm, hardback
Page extent: 124 pp with text in English and French, 36 full colour A3 maps, and over 100 colour photographs.
Publication date: October 2007
Price: £80.00
ISBN: 978 1 84246 198 3

Author information

For 15 years Justin Moat has been employed at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with the initial remit of setting up a GIS unit, which he currently heads. After completing his masters on mapping Madagascar's vegetation, he continues to take every opportunity to work on this unique island.

Paul Smith is an ecologist with practical experience in vegetation mapping, botanical inventory and survey, impact assessment, park management systems and ecotourism. He has a wide and detailed knowledge of the plants of southern, central and east Africa, and has twenty years experience working in Africa and Madagascar. Paul is Head of the Seed Conservation Department at Kew and leader of the Millennium Seed Bank Project.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has also published books on Madagascar, most recently a new edition of The Orchids of Madagascar, an annotated checklist which includes the diagnostic notes on each species, distribution, habitat and flowering times. Field Guide to the Palms of Madagascar boasts simple keys and lavishly illustrated pictorial descriptions, distribution maps and diagrams to enable identification of Madagascar's Palms, and the Generic Tree Flora of Madagascar, published in English and French editions, covers 500 genera of native and naturalized Malagasy trees.

Find out more about Kew's publications go to our on-line bookshop at www.kewbooks.com and to learn more about Kew Gardens visit www.kew.org.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction and its 132 hectares of landscaped gardens attract over one million visitors per year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and represents over 250 years of historical landscape. For further information please visit www.kew.org.

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Did You Know?

Visit the Madagascar Vegetation Mapping Project Web site for more information.

To find out more about CEPF’s work in this region, visit the Madagascar Hotspot section of our site.

Visit the News & Feature Archive for this hotspot.

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