Loudetia filifolia grassland, in circuit Malaso Isalo. David Rabevehitra, KMCC. Madagascar

Grasses of the Isalo National Park, Madagascar – checklist, origins, and significance

Nantenaina Herizo Rakotomalala, Mihajamalala Andotiana Andriamanohera, David Rabehevitra, Cédrique Lova Solofondranohatra, Vololoniaina Hary Jeannoda, Andriantsitohaina Ranaivojaona, Hélène Ralimanana, Maria Sergeevna Vorontsova

Abstract


Grasses are one of the best documented plant families worldwide in terms of taxonomy, but they are still poorly known in Madagascar. Our understanding of their diversity remains incomplete since grasses and grasslands are assumed by many to be weeds and degraded wastelands. This project aimed to list the grasses in Isalo National Park (NP) in order to understand their diversity and endemicity, as well as the history of Isalo’s grasslands. Examination of herbarium specimens and new field inventories allowed us to confirm 589 records of grass occurrences in our study area. They were assigned to 112 species, of which 38 species are new records for Isalo NP. The Isalo grass flora includes seven of the eleven Poaceae subfamilies present in Madagascar and is particularly rich in Panicoideae, which make up 65% of the species. Nearly 22% of the grass species of Isalo are endemic to Madagascar, of which three species and one variety are restricted to Isalo massif, including two unusual ground cover species Tristachya humbertii A.Camus and Tristachya [Isalus isalensis]. Open grasslands harbour the highest diversity of grass species, followed closely by riparian forests. The history of the management of Isalo NP by the Bara people, as well as the endemism and the native origin of its grasses and other species are consistent with an ancient origin of Isalo’s ecosystems. We urge that the conservation of Isalo’s grassy ecosystems, as well as that of the plants and animals that inhabit them be prioritized.

 

Résumé

Les graminées sont parmi les familles de plantes les mieux documentées au niveau mondial en termes de taxonomie, mais sont encore mal connues à Madagascar. Notre compréhension de leur diversité reste incomplète, vu que les graminées et les savanes sont considérées par beaucoup comme des mauvaises herbes et des friches dégradées. Ce projet visait à établir une liste des graminées connues du Parc National (PN) de l’Isalo, afin de comprendre leur diversité et leur endémicité, ainsi que l’histoire des écosystèmes herbeux de l’Isalo. L’examen des spécimens d'herbiers et les nouveaux inventaires sur terrains nous ont permis de générer 589 occurrences de graminées de notre site d’étude. Elles ont été attribuées à 112 espèces de Poaceae, dont 38 sont de nouvelles collectes pour le massif d’Isalo. La flore herbacée du massif de l'Isalo comprend sept des onze sous-familles de Poaceae présentes à Madagascar et est particulièrement riche en Panicoideae qui représentent 65% des espèces. Près de 22% des espèces de graminées de l’Isalo sont endémiques de Madagascar, dont trois espèces et une variété sont restreintes à Isalo, y compris les deux espèces de plantes couvre-sols inhabituelles Tristachya humbertii A.Camus et Tristachya [Isalus isalensis]. Les prairies ouvertes abritent la plus grande diversité d'espèces de graminées, suivies de près par les forêts ripicoles. L’histoire de la gestion du PN de l’Isalo par les habitants de la région du groupe Bara, ainsi que l’endémisme et l’origine autochtone de ses graminées et autres espèces sont cohérents avec une origine ancienne des écosystèmes de l’Isalo. Nous préconisons instamment que la conservation de ces prairies et savanes, ainsi que les plantes et les animaux qui y habitent soit priorisée.


Keywords


grasses; Madagascar; diversity; savanna; endemism; conservation; herbes; endémisme; savane; biodiversité; Parc National

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Madag. conserv. dev.
ISSN: 1662-2510