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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Madagascar palm trees at risk of extinction

17 October 2012

Madagascar palm trees at risk of extinction, study finds

Madagascar's rain forests have shrunk to
less than a quarter of their original size,
the IUCN said 

A majority of Madagascar's palms face extinction due to land clearing, an environment protection group says.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said 83% of the 192 tree varieties had been added to its threatened species list.

The group called the figures "terrifying", saying the tree loss also endangered animals and put people's livelihoods at risk.

The findings bring the global number of species at risk of dying out to 20,219.

The IUCN's global director for biodiversity conservation, Jane Smart, said the latest study showed the situation could no longer be ignored.

"The figures on Madagascar's palms are truly terrifying, especially as the loss of palms impacts both the unique biodiversity of the island and its people," she said.

Domino effect

Madagascar is the world's fourth biggest island after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo.

Because of its isolation most of its mammals, half its birds, and most of its plants exist nowhere else on Earth.

Palm trees represent an integral part of the island's biodiversity, with many of its poorest communities relying on the trees to provide housing and food.

The raw materials are used to build houses, utensils and crafts, as well as to produce food, drinks and medicine. (...)

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