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Abstract Detail

The Contribution of Regional Flora Projects to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

Plunkett, Gregory [1], Ranker, Tom [2], Chanel, Sam [3], Balick, Michael [4].

A Flora for Vanuatu: Nearly 250 Years and Still Waiting.

Vanuatu is an archipelago of over 80 islands in the South Pacific.   Botanical exploration began with Capt. James Cook's Second Voyage to the Pacific, during which Johann and Georg Forster collected the first plant specimens from the archipelago in 1774.   Despite this long history, Vanuatu still lacks a formal floristic treatment, in contrast to most other countries in Oceania (e.g., Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, and the region of Malesia, among others).   This deficiency has had serious implications for related fields, such as plant conservation, where a lack of understanding about species names and distributions has curtailed efforts for threat assessments using protocols such as IUCN's Red List criteria.   As recently as 2019, only 110 species of plants (<7% of Vanuatu's flora) had Red List assessments, and of these, 100 species were broadly distributed and exhibited few threats (Red List categories of LC or NT).   In a multi-disciplinary approach to this problem, the Plants and People of Vanuatu project is combining floristic studies (through field and herbarium work, together with literature reviews) with ethnobotanical and linguistic studies.   This combined approach has helped to make floristic work more relevant to the local society in Vanuatu, where plants play a major role in traditional culture, and where there are more languages per capita than any other country on Earth.   The first stages of the flora project in Vanuatu included the updating and enhancement of the Vanuatu National Herbarium's database, along with the completion of a preliminary checklist of the country's vascular plants.   Results from this effort indicate that approximately one-third of species names currently being used for Vanuatu's plants were incorrect and/or in need of taxonomic updating, rendering it nearly impossible to complete meaningful threat assessments.   The present checklist includes 1,633 species of vascular plants, 77% of which are native.   Of these native species, 13% are endemic.   The absolute species richness of Vanuatu is lower than nearby New Caledonia and Fiji, but New Caledonia is an ancient, continental landmass with extraordinary diversity, and both countries are considerably larger than Vanuatu.   When factoring in both age and size, the richness of Vanuatu's flora is comparable to that of Fiji.   Finally, while the checklist does not represent a full floristic treatment, it does form the necessary precursor for initiating a Flora of Vanuatu, and when combined with the new herbarium database, provides the means for a specimen-based approach to documenting Vanuatu's plant diversity .

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1 - New York Botanical Garden, Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY, 10458, USA
2 - University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, School of Life Sciences, Edmondson 216, Honolulu, HI, 96822, USA
3 - Vanuatu Department of Forestry, Vanuatu National Herbarium, Port Vila, Vanuatu
4 - New York Botanical Garden, Institute for Economic Botany, 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY, 10458, USA

South Pacific.

Presentation Type: Colloquium Presentations
Session: C10, The Contribution of Regional Flora Projects to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
Location: /
Date: Friday, July 23rd, 2021
Time: 11:00 AM(EDT)
Number: C10005
Abstract ID:468
Candidate for Awards:None

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