This is a collaborative project between the herbaria of Comores, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles, supported by the Indian Ocena Commission (IOC). bringing together data and images from the herbaria of the South West Indian Ocean region, promoting sustainable biodiversity in the region. In its pilot phase, the focus is on the Orchidaceae.
The Indian Ocean region is home to great biodiversity including several hotspots. Among the flowering plants, the orchid family constitutes more than 10% of the species level diversity. The regions of Madagascar and surrounding islands, the East African coast and South Africa has more than two thousand orchid taxa. Knowledge about the geeographic distribution and ecology of these species is dispersed among the various national and regional herbarium of the area. This complicates many aspects of reserch and conservation of this emblematic group of plants .
Biogeography of the Indian Ocean region
This hotspot is composed of the island nation of Madagascar and several neighboring island groups: the Mascarenes, Comoros, and Seychelles in the western Indian Ocean. Seychelles, Mauritius and the bulk of the Comoros are independent nations, whereas the island of Reunion is a French overseas department and the Comorian island of Mayotte is a French overseas territory. At 587,045 square kilometers (0.4% of the land surface of the planet), Madagascar is the largest oceanic island and the fourth largest island on Earth. The island nation is located approximately 400 kilometers from the eastern coast of Africa and, via the process of plate tectonics, is believed to have been isolated from other landmasses for more than 160 million years. This isolation has resulted in a number of distinct evolutionary lineages and high levels of endemism among groups of plants and animals that either were inhabitants of the original landmass before Madagascar’s separation, or which colonized the “new” island later. This section in the ecosystem profile provides a brief overview of the biological importance of the entire Hotspot region. However, at this point CEPF will provide grant resources to projects within the boundaries of the nation of Madagascar. Other areas of the Madagascar and Indian Ocean Hotspot may become eligible for funding later.
Together, the other island groups add very little to the land area of the hotspot, yet they make a significant contribution to its biodiversity. Reunion and the Republic of Mauritius, which consists of the main island of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Round Island and a number of smaller islands, are located approximately 900 kilometers east of Madagascar and cover 2,040 square kilometers. The Comoros are located northwest of Madagascar in the Mozambique Channel and cover 2,171 square kilometers. Seychelles, with four main granitic islands, Mahé, Praslin, Silhouette and La Digue, and approximately 100 other granitic islands and coralline islets, covers an area of 455 square kilometers. Combined with Madagascar, these island groups bring the total area of the hotspot to 594,221 square kilometers.
In terms of the original extent of its native habitats, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands represents the 10th largest of the 25 biodiversity hotspots that have been identified by Conservation International. It ranks 8th among the hotspots in terms of remaining intact habitat (approximately 18% of the original extent), according to the most recent estimates of tropical forest cover.
The Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands biodiversity hotspot includes the island of Madagascar and several neighboring island groups. The hotspot is thought by many to be the world’s top conservation priority due to its remarkable biodiversity and extensive deforestation. It is one of the 25 richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on Earth.
Experts estimate that Madagascar has lost as much as 80 percent of its original forest cover. Direct threats to biodiversity include agricultural expansion, timber exploitation, uncontrolled livestock grazing, wood collection for fuel and charcoal production, hunting, mining, wildlife collection and introduction of non-native wildlife species.
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