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Comprehensive Red List assessment reveals exceptionally high extinction risk to Madagascar palms

Comprehensive Red List assessment reveals exceptionally high extinction risk to Madagascar palms

Plos One 9(7): E103684

The establishment of baseline IUCN Red List assessments for plants is a crucial step in conservation planning. Nowhere is this more important than in biodiversity hotspots that are subject to significant anthropogenic pressures, such as Madagascar. Here, all Madagascar palm species are assessed using the IUCN Red List categories and criteria, version 3.1. Our results indicate that 83% of the 192 endemic species are threatened, nearly four times the proportion estimated for plants globally and exceeding estimates for all other comprehensively evaluated plant groups in Madagascar. Compared with a previous assessment in 1995, the number of Endangered and Critically Endangered species has substantially increased, due to the discovery of 28 new species since 1995, most of which are highly threatened. The conservation status of most species included in both the 1995 and the current assessments has not changed. Where change occurred, more species have moved to lower threat categories than to higher categories, because of improved knowledge of species and their distributions, rather than a decrease in extinction risk. However, some cases of genuine deterioration in conservation status were also identified. Palms in Madagascar are primarily threatened by habitat loss due to agriculture and biological resource use through direct exploitation or collateral damage. The recent extension of Madagascar's protected area network is highly beneficial for palms, substantially increasing the number of threatened species populations included within reserves. Notably, three of the eight most important protected areas for palms are newly designated. However, 28 threatened and data deficient species are not protected by the expanded network, including some Critically Endangered species. Moreover, many species occurring in protected areas are still threatened, indicating that threatening processes persist even in reserves. Definitive implementation of the new protected areas combined with local community engagement are essential for the survival of Madagascar's palms.

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Accession: 052269631

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PMID: 25075612

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103684

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