Aina Randriarisoa found a perch for Labramia ambondrombeensis on the taxonomical tree of life. She helped identify the tree from its genetic signature, the arrangement of its leaves, the shape of its flowers. Yet Randriarisoa, a 28-year-old Malagasy botanist, has never set eyes on the tree, and she fears she never will. A 400-hectare (988-acre) forest fragment in northeast Madagascar, slightly bigger than Central Park, is the tree’s only known habitat, and it is shrinking. In Madagascar, a bottle-gourd-shaped island off Africa’s eastern coast, it is easy to miss the trees for the woods. Its fabled forests are retreating rapidly; 1-2% are wiped out each year. Millions of years of isolation have given birth to a breathtaking variety of life-forms on the island, including 2,900 endemic tree species. Today, only a few thousand years since humans appeared here, two-thirds of these unique tree species are at risk of disappearing. Scientists are racing against the extinction clock to document this mind-boggling biodiversity and determine just how imperiled individual species are. The effort sprinted forward this year with the completion of more than 2,400 assessments by a team of Malagasy and foreign researchers. It was spearheaded by the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG), Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre, the University of Antananarivo, and the IUCN. It is part of Botanic Gardens Conservation International’s Global Tree Assessment initiative. Madagascar is a top priority; it has 5% of the world’s tree species, high endemicity, but also one of the highest deforestation rates. Of the 3,118 species…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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