Palm Tree Highlights Challenges of Preserving Madagascar’s BiodiversityJanuary 28, 2008 By Rachel WeisshaarToday’s Washington Post reports on the discovery of a new species of flowering palm tree in northern Madagascar. The tree—which, when in bloom, sends a 30-foot-tall mass of fruits and flowers sprouting from the top of its trunk—is so unlike any other known palms that it has been assigned its own genus. The discovery of this tree is “helping to highlight the predicament Madagascar faces as population growth, poverty and poor land management conspire to destroy the last vestiges of that island’s ecological magnificence,” writes reporter Rick Weiss. According to the article, approximately 90 percent of Madagascar’s 10,000 plant species are endemic to the island, yet one-third of the country’s unique vegetative cover has disappeared during the past three decades.
But the situation is perhaps not as dire as Weiss makes it out to be. For instance, a successful population-environment program in Madagascar has helped preserve the country’s remaining rainforest while improving the health of the Malagasy people.
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