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2019 AZH conservation grant recipient report from Missouri Botanical Garden, on behalf of the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group

May 21, 2020 11:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Ex-situ conservation of four ‘new’ and unprotected plant species at Parc Ivoloina, central-eastern Madagascar

Summary Progress report for the Association of Zoological Horticulture

May 2020

In January 2020, Missouri Botanical Garden, on behalf of the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group, was awarded $7470 for a project that aimed to conserve ex-situ, as growing plants at Parc Ivoloina, four newly discovered Malagasy plants known only from unprotected forests that are high threatened.  The four target species include: a species of Polyscias (Araliaceae), a species of Astrocassine (Celastraceae), a species of Rhopalocarpus (Sphaerosepalaceae), and a species of Vitex (Lamiaceae). These plants were located during previous fieldwork in the Ivoloina and Ifontsy River valleys, close to Parc Ivoloina, but, at that time, seeds were not available and the plants were not propagated.  To achieve the stated objective we will implement four main activities: 1) relocation and flagging of the target species in the wild by an experienced botanist; 2) identification of reliable local people who will be trained to monitor the phenology of the target species and to collect vouchered samples of mature seeds as these became available for dispatch to Parc Ivoloina; 3) accession and propagation of the seed samples at the native plant nursery at Parc Ivoloina; 4) plantation of the resultant plants within the Parc ensuring each plant is permanently tagged with its accession number.

The field botanist identified for the first of these tasks was Patrice Antilahimena.  He was selected because he had been part of the team that had originally discovered these plants and thus knew them well.  Patrice has been working for 2 years in this area, is known and trusted by local people and knows which people could be reliably tasked to monitor phenology of the target plants and to collect seed samples.  Unfortunately, Patrice did not become available for this work until February 2020 and therefore his first fieldtrip for this project was in March 2020.  This trip coincided with the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Madagascar but despite this Patrice was able to relocate the first of the target species: the presumed Astrocassine.  Patrice also selected a local person to monitor the phenology of the plant and collect mature seeds.  On 15th May 2020, Platini, the nurserymen at Parc Ivoloina received a seed sample consisting of 206 seeds of this species.  These seeds have now been sown.

Unfortunately, the end of Patrice’s fieldtrip coincided with restrictions on movement imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Madagascar, and consequently he was forced to delay his return home for a few days – leading to some extra expenditure on hotels and meals.  The situation in Madagascar with respect to the pandemic is obscure: until recently the State reported few cases and no deaths but, at the time of writing, many more cases are being reported and there have been two COVID-19 related deaths.  Many of the newly reported cases are Tamatave, the major town close to Parc Ivoloina and therefore travel in this part of the country have been severely restricted.  Consequently, at the moment, there can be no fieldwork in this area until the pandemic is under control and travel restrictions within Madagascar are lifted.  It is not possible to predict when these conditions will exist.  Whatever is next, it is certain that the implementation of this project will be much delayed.

In conclusion to date this project has successfully sampled seeds from one of the four target species, but the timetable for work on the other species is uncertain.

Young fruit of the possible “new” species of Astrocassine

Seed sample of the supposed new species of Astrocassine received at Parc Ivoloina 15 May 2020

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