Apr. 15, 2007 A mapping exercise by experts from Bournemouth University’s School of Conservation Sciences has revealed that over half of the world’s magnolia species face extinction in their native forest habitats.
The Red List of the Magnoliace is co-authored by Professor Adrian Newton and Daniele Cicuzza from BU’s Environmental and Geographical Sciences Group together with Sara Oldfield of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI).
The Red List identifies threats to the existence of magnolia species including the destruction of habitat to make way for agriculture, and over-exploitation. It claims that 131 wild maganolias from a total of 245 species worldwide are in danger of extinction.
Magnolias are among the most ancient groups of flowering plants and have long been cultivated by mankind. Some specimens growing in the precincts of Chinese temples are estimated to be up to 800 years old.
The significance of their potential loss is considered by experts as a threat to the genetic diversity of the species. Magnolias also serve as highly sensitive indicators of the well-being of the forests in which they are found.
Professor Newton’s comprehensive mapping exercise underpins the general report published by BGCI and Fauna and Flora International (FFI).
“The maps provide an excellent baseline for future monitoring and conservation planning at a time of rapid environmental change,” said Professor Newton. “Comparing species distribution with forest cover for a whole family of flowering plants gives us a unique snapshot of forest biodiversity.”
Sara Oldfield added: "There is a strong chance that these species will become extinct unless we take action now. That would be a tragedy because they're so important in local livelihoods and also we would be losing some beautiful trees for ever."
Some two thirds of known magnolia species are found in Asia, with over 40 per cent occurring in southern China. According to the report half of all wild Chinese magnolias are at risk of extinction. In the Americas, north and south, where magnolias are also found in the wild, a similar picture is emerging. In Colombia, for example, the report concludes that the threat of extinction hangs over 30 of its native species.
Drawing on the report’s findings BGCI and FFI are collaborating through the Global Trees Campaign to boost conservation efforts for threatened magnolias.
Later this month, at the 3rd Global Botanic Gardens Congress in Wuhan, China (April 16 - 20, 2007), BGCI will launch a survey of botanic garden collections of threatened magnolias species.
This will enable BGCI to identify precisely which threatened species are not yet held in ex situ collections (in botanic gardens and arboreta, etc.), and take action to ensure that integrated conservation measures for these species are developed and implemented.
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