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Mohamed bin Zayed Fund to support plant, tree research in Namibia and Brazil

Research into the conservation status of an iconic plant species found in the ecosystems of Namibia’s Namib Desert and studies of a critically-endangered tree species and a recently-rediscovered flowering plant from Brazil are to receive support from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, according to a list of newly-agreed grants on the Fund’s website.

The Welwitschia (Welwitschia mirabilis) is believed to play a crucial ecological role in the Namib Desert but its conservation status is largely unknown. Available data indicates highly variable population densities across the species range, with uncommon to rare individuals in the Kunene subrange, while threats include climate change, ecotourism, domestic livestock and mining.

The main aim of the project, being undertaken by the Institute of Research on Territorial Ecosystems, CNR-IRET, of the National Research Council of Italy, is to lay the basis for the development of a long-term management plan for this species, by collecting relevant information in the Kunene subrange of Welwitschia. This will help to define the area of occupancy of the species in this remote region, allowing identification of priority areas for conservation and planning management activities.

In Brazil, the Parana Pine (Araucaria angustifolia) is a species of conifer tree whose seeds have traditionally been exploited as a source of food and income in local rural societies. During the last century, Araucaria populations were decimated by intense logging activities and the tree is now classified as being critically endangered with extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN. Currently, logging of native populations of Araucaria, found mainly in the highlands of southern Brazil, is prohibited.

Local communities use cattle and fire for land management in nearby high-altitude grasslands and the project, being undertaken by Brazil’s Federal University of Santa Catarina, will examine how past and present land use and management affect the population dynamics of the species.

Also in Brazil, another project being supported by the Fund is research into Mollimedia stenophylla, a recently rediscovered and critically endangered species of flowering plant known only from a narrow area of rainforest in Rio de Janeiro state.

This project involves fieldwork to search for new subpopulations of the species in the wild and of other related species in the same area. Work will be undertaken on the genetic diversity of Mollinedia stenophylla while an assessment will be done of the risk of extinction for this and three other related species. An action plan for the conservation of endemic plant species in Rio de Janeiro state will also be updated.

The research will be undertaken by the University of Sao Paulo. Other projects involving plants in the latest round of grants being awarded by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund are being supported in Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Cuba and India.

Established in 2008, the Fund has so far given a total of just over US$18 million to 1,924 conservation projects, covering over 1,200 species and sub-species of plants and animals.


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