The Mauritius Herbarium


The Mauritius Herbarium

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Rijsdijk K.F.,University of Amsterdam | Hume J.P.,Bird Group | de Louw P.G.B.,Deltares | Meijer H.J.M.,Institute Catala Of Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont | And 36 more authors.
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology | Year: 2015

The dodo Raphus cucullatus Linnaeus, 1758, an extinct and flightless, giant pigeon endemic to Mauritius, has fascinated people since its discovery, yet has remained surprisingly poorly known. Until the mid-19th century, almost all that was known about the dodo was based on illustrations and written accounts by 17th century mariners, often of questionable accuracy. Furthermore, only a few fragmentary remains of dodos collected prior to the bird’s extinction exist. Our understanding of the dodo’s anatomy was substantially enhanced by the discovery in 1865 of subfossil bones in a marsh called the Mare aux Songes, situated in southeastern Mauritius. However, no contextual information was recorded during early excavation efforts, and the majority of excavated material comprised larger dodo bones, almost all of which were unassociated. Here we present a modern interdisciplinary analysis of the Mare aux Songes, a 4200-year-old multitaxic vertebrate concentration Lagerstätte. Our analysis of the deposits at this site provides the first detailed overview of the ecosystem inhabited by the dodo. The interplay of climatic and geological conditions led to the exceptional preservation of the animal and associated plant remains at the Mare aux Songes and provides a window into the past ecosystem of Mauritius. This interdisciplinary research approach provides an ecological framework for the dodo, complementing insights on its anatomy derived from the only associated dodo skeletons known, both of which were collected by Etienne Thirioux and are the primary subject of this memoir. © 2015 by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

PubMed | University of Mauritius, University of Surrey and The Mauritius Herbarium
Type: | Journal: PhytoKeys | Year: 2015

A new species of Syzygium Gaertn. (Myrtaceae), Syzygiumpyneei Byng, V. Florens & Baider, is described from Mondrain Reserve on the island of Mauritius. This species is endemic to the island and differs from any other species by its combination of cauliflory, relatively large flowers, light green to cream hypanthium, light pink stamens, short thick petioles, coriaceous leaves and round, cuneate or sub-cordate to cordate leaf bases. Syzygiumpyneei Byng, V. Florens & Baider is known from only two individuals from the type locality and merits the conservation status of Critically Endangered (CR C2a(i,ii); D).

Florens F.B.V.,University of Reunion Island | Florens F.B.V.,University of Mauritius | Baider C.,The Mauritius Herbarium | Martin G.M.N.,University of Mauritius | And 3 more authors.
Journal for Nature Conservation | Year: 2016

Invasive alien plants pose a threat to biodiversity in particular on oceanic islands, where endemism tends to be high. In this context, it matters to characterise invasions in-situ and in particular to document how far invasive plants may invade protected areas devoid of major human disturbances. We explore this question on the tropical island of Mauritius, which provides an interesting case study because it possesses several attributes of human impacts, which are increasingly being encountered by most tropical oceanic islands worldwide. Mauritius today may thus serve as a “window” into the future of many other islands. We assess woody invasive alien plant abundance in the island's wet native forests by sampling five of the currently best-preserved sites. We chose only protected areas that have benefitted from long-term legal protection. All woody alien plants reaching at least 1 cm of diameter at breast height (dbh) were identified and their dbh measured in a series of fifteen 100 m2 quadrats randomly placed in each forest. All sites are today dominated by woody invasive alien plants, which comprised 78.5% of the 27 868 sampled plants ≥1 cm dbh. Density-wise, the alien shade tolerant strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum) dominates all forests sampled. In terms of Importance Value (as percent relative dominance and percent relative density), P. cattleianum dominates four sites and another alien, Cinnamomum verum, dominates one site. Our study shows that even though relatively diverse, the native plant communities of an oceanic island cannot resist the encroachment of understory invasive alien plants, even in better preserved, least disturbed forests that have been receiving long-term formal legal protection. © 2016

Fournel J.,University of Reunion Island | Micheneau C.,University of Reunion Island | Baider C.,The Mauritius Herbarium
Phytotaxa | Year: 2015

Angraecum jeannineanum, a new species endemic to Mauritius, is described and its ecology and conservation status are discussed. Angraecum jeannineanum differs from A. cadetii, which is the morphologically most closely related species, as follows: (i) leaves are smaller, thicker and darker green, (ii) inflorescences and flowers are thinner and smaller, (iii) flowers are more greenish and non-fleshy. Angraecum jeannineanum belongs to Angraecum section Hadrangis, endemic to the Mascarenes, which also includes A. bracteosum, A. cadetii and A. striatum. An updated key for the section is provided. The species should be considered as Critically Endangered (CR) according to the Red List Criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This assessment is based on the highly restricted species distribution, small population size, and habitat sustaining degradation by invasive alien plants and animals. © 2015 Magnolia Press.

Florens F.B.V.,University of Reunion Island | Florens F.B.V.,University of Mauritius | Baider C.,The Mauritius Herbarium | Martin G.M.N.,University of Mauritius | Strasberg D.,University of Reunion Island
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2012

Mauritius, a 1,865 km2 oceanic island within the Madagascar and Indian Ocean islands biodiversity hotspot may be regarded as reflecting what awaits many tropical oceanic islands owing to the extreme levels of transformation resulting from over 370 years of human presence. The island has an urgent need to conserve its surviving remnants of native terrestrial habitats. There, however, exists little published quantitative information like species diversity, stem density and basal area in these habitats and other essential parameters for informing their conservation. We surveyed woody native plants in five of the best preserved lowland wet forests using 75 random plots of 100 m2 (totalling 0. 75 ha). Density, dominance and frequency values were calculated along with species and family importance values for each site. For plants ≥1 cm diameter at breast height, 108 species in 66 genera and 39 families were represented by 6,000 individual plants. This gives a density of 8,000 plants per ha which is very high for a lowland wet tropical forest. Species endemism within the plots was 63 % to Mauritius and 87 % to the Mascarenes. Some 56 % of all woody native species ever recorded from the lowland wet forest of Mauritius was sampled. Extrapolated basal area varied from 31 to 49. 1 m2 per ha. The mean similarity in species between pairs of sites was about 60 %. Mauritian wet forests retain the highest tree diversity in the Mascarenes, and probably among all isolated oceanic islands around the world despite massive habitat destruction, extraction and invasion by alien species. Substantial conservation importance and restoration potential still exist. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Baider C.,The Mauritius Herbarium | Baider C.,e-Security | Florens F.B.V.,University of Mauritius
Phytotaxa | Year: 2013

Eugenia alletiana, a new endemic species from Mauritius, is described and its ecology and conservation is discussed. The morphological diagnostic features for Eugenia alletiana are chartaceous, discoloured leaves, very thin terminal branchlets, flowers solitary or in fascicles of 2-3 flowers, totally fused hypanthium without apical pore or calyptra, that encloses the numerous stamens (> 500) and petals before anthesis; seed enclosed in a woody endocarp with a lamellated outer surface. The species should be considered as Critically Endangered (CR) according to the Red List Criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. This assessment is based on the plant's restricted distribution, very small population size, a habitat sustaining degradation by invasive alien plants and animals and predation of immature fruits and seeds by invasive alien monkeys and rats respectively leading to a weak regeneration. © 2013 Magnolia Press.

De Boer E.J.,University of Amsterdam | Tjallingii R.,Netherlands Institute for Sea Research | Velez M.I.,University of Regina | Rijsdijk K.F.,University of Amsterdam | And 7 more authors.
Quaternary Science Reviews | Year: 2014

A multi-proxy reconstruction of a sediment core from the Tatos basin in the Mauritian lowlands reveals a dynamic environmental history during the last 8000 years. Under influence of sea level rise, the basin progressed from a wetland to a shallow lake between 8000 and 2500cal yr BP and it slowly changed back into a wetland after sea level reached its highest position at around 2500cal yr BP. The groundwater level in the basin was strongly affected by sea level rise and precipitation-forced runoff through the porous volcanic bedrock.Millennial-scale precipitation changes in the Mauritian lowlands were derived from the pollen records of semi-dry forest and palm woodland. Salinity and environmental reconstructions based on diatoms, ostracods, stable isotopes and sediment composition showed numerous decadal and centennial droughts and wet events. Mauritius experienced wet conditions between ~8000 and ~6800cal yr BP, followed by decreasing humidity from 6800 to 6000cal yr BP. Dry conditions persisted until ~1200cal yr BP, after which wetter conditions have prevailed as recorded from Mauritian lowland and upland records. Climate dynamics reflects northern hemisphere monsoon activity and suggest that Mauritian rainfall and the Indian and Asian summer monsoons are linked, as both receive moisture from the southern equatorial Indian Ocean.The anti-phased relationship of climate dynamics between the Mauritian lowlands and western tropical Australia during the middle Holocene is interpreted as a prolonged configuration of a negative mode of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). A negative IOD-like state is supported by decreased Asian summer monsoon rainfall, higher Austral-Indonesian summer monsoon rainfall and lower temperatures in the Kilimanjaro record. Conversely, repeated decadal-scale wet events in the Mauritian lowlands occurring every ~350 years reflect short positive IOD-like events.The onset of ENSO climate variability followed an anomalously strong negative IOD-like event and shifted teleconnections from the tropical Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. A shift in ENSO activity around ~2600cal yr BP signifies the decoupling of ENSO from the Atlantic ITCZ. Subsequently, the influence of ENSO on climate in the western Indian Ocean is indicated by increased storm frequency and drought events after 2660cal yr BP in Mauritius and reduced monsoon activity in the western and eastern Indian Ocean. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

De Boer E.J.,University of Amsterdam | Slaikovska M.,University of Amsterdam | Hooghiemstra H.,University of Amsterdam | Rijsdijk K.F.,University of Amsterdam | And 4 more authors.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology | Year: 2013

A 115cm long sediment core retrieved from the exposed uplands of Mauritius, a small oceanic island in the Indian Ocean, shows environmental change from the uninhabited era into post-colonization times. Well-preserved fossil pollen and diatoms in the uppermost 30cm of the core reflect environmental conditions during the last 1000years. Granulometric analysis along the core shows that the sediments below 30cm consist of weathered material and that the record may contain hiatuses. This is also illustrated by a 14C date at 96cm depth of 35,000 calibrated years before AD 1950 (35.0calka). The pollen record shows that pristine vegetation at 650m elevation consisted of ericaceous heathland and Pandanus marsh. Around 0.9calka wet montane forest and fern-rich marsh replaced heathland vegetation, indicating higher moisture availability. Natural changes in upland vegetation associations are mainly driven by changes in sediment accumulation causing changes in soil properties and drainage conditions. The historically well-dated start of colonization (AD 1638) is reflected by the sudden arrival of exotic plant taxa Camellia sinensis (tea), Pinus spp. (pine), Casuarina equisetifolia (coastal she-oak), Psidium cattleianum (strawberry guava), Homalanthus (Queensland poplar) and Saccharum officinarum (sugar cane), as well as an increase in charcoal, indicating deforestation. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Florens F.B.V.,University of Mauritius | Baider C.,The Mauritius Herbarium
Restoration Ecology | Year: 2013

Restoration science is a relatively young branch of ecology that is growing in importance owing to the sheer scale and trend of habitat degradation worldwide and the range of strong benefits that it is seen to potentially carry. Although spearheaded mainly by developed countries, its usefulness at least for the conservation of biodiversity may be greatest in the developing world. Here we examine how Mauritius, a developing island nation that may be regarded as well equipped among developing countries in terms of access to restoration science, is using science to inform the ecological restoration of its degraded native habitats for biodiversity conservation. While Mauritius is known for a number of proactive and at times innovative approaches that may even be setting the pace worldwide, we found that the restoration activities which are impacting the largest areas and an overwhelming proportion of native biodiversity of the country sometimes remain averse to even basic ecological principles. This includes the removal from restoration areas of fast growing native pioneer species with proven nurse-tree potential to be replaced by a multitude of nursery grown and much slower growing plants that would have naturally grown anyway. Besides representing setbacks to areas undergoing restoration, this elevates restoration costs in the face of scarcity of conservation resources and urgency to restore more than the tiny and isolated areas currently targeted. Research worldwide continues to improve restoration science but blockages to knowledge transfer can seriously undermine its impact where it is most needed. © 2012 Society for Ecological Restoration.

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