For Ecuador’s Sápara, saving the forest means saving their language

first_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored The Sápara people of Ecuador, who live in one of the most biodiverse forests in the world, are fighting to retain their traditional language, spoken today by only a handful of native speakers.Tropical rainforests around the world and especially in Latin America are at the forefront of a rapid decline in linguistic diversity, and the traditional ecological knowledge encoded in it.Half of the world’s languages, many spoken by only a few dozen or a few hundred people, are kept alive by only 0.1 percent of the world’s population, and constitute some of the most threatened languages.2019 has been declared the “year of indigenous languages” by the U.N., in recognition of the importance of linguistic diversity around the world and its rapid decline. NAPO, Ecuador — Gloria Ushigua, president of the Sápara women’s association, stops by a large, thin, spindly tree that looks almost dead, and breaks off a thin branch. Running her fingers along it, she finds a small, almost invisible inch-long raised groove and bites into it. Tiny ants swarm out, which she picks off with her teeth. “Ormigas acidas,” or sour ants, she explains in Spanish. “Before my grandparents even heard of limes or lemons, we used these ants to season our dishes when we wanted a sour taste.”This is just one of many examples of how the Sápara, who have inhabited the eastern part of the Ecuadoran Amazon in the Napo eco-region around Yasuni National Park for centuries, have developed a deep local understanding and language for the rainforest they call home — a rainforest that happens to also be one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. But that knowledge is threatened on multiple levels.Gloria shows a fungi commonly used for ear-ache. The cultural and oral traditions of the Sapara are considered an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” by UNESCO because of the depth of ecological and medicinal knowledge the Sapara have. Image by Sarah Sax for MongabayCurrently, only 400 Sápara, considered the smallest of the Ecuadoran indigenous nations, remain, and only a handful of elders speak Sápara fluently; when they die, many of the stories and traditional ecological knowledge encoded in the language is at risk of extinction. The nation also faces external pressure: their roughly 400,000-hectare (990,000-acre) territory sits on top of six oil concessions, two of which the Ecuadoran government has repeatedly tried to auction off.“It’s a dangerous situation for us, the Sápara,” Ushigua says. “There are so few of us in our territory and there is also petroleum in our territory. We know that if we allowed oil extraction in our territory it would be the end of us for good.”The story of the Sápara’s decline isn’t dissimilar to that of other nations and tribes in the Amazon Basin. Once a nation of around 200,000 people, the Sápara were decimated after contact with outsiders through the rubber trade, enslavement and disease. Now they’re in a race against time to revitalize their dying language. And they’re not alone. At least a quarter of the world’s languages are threatened with extinction, according to a WWF report in 2014, and most of them are indigenous.Language losses in forests worldwideA recent U.N. report on the state of global biodiversity warns that as many as a million species could be at risk from extinction in the coming decades. The U.N. has also designated 2019 the “year of indigenous languages,” to draw attention to the rapid decline in indigenous languages worldwide. Even though indigenous people constitute less than 5 percent of the world’s population, they conserve an estimated 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity.Globally, areas of high biological diversity, largely tropical rainforests, are also areas of high cultural-linguistic diversity. In fact, the three core areas of biocultural diversity are situated in the three largest, most intact tropical rainforests: the Amazon, the Congo Basin, and Southeast Asia.“When you look at distribution of languages around the world, tropical forests really show up as hotspots of linguistic diversity, and overlap with trends in biological diversity,” says Jonathan Loh, an honorary research fellow at the School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, U.K. “They are also the areas where decline is happening the fastest.”Half of the world’s languages, many spoken by only a few dozen or a few hundred people, are kept alive by only 0.1 percent of the world’s population, according to the WWF report. These are some of the most threatened languages.A young girl participates in the traditional “mono gordo” Sapara festival, which was celebrated for the first time in 30 years in June 2019. Image by Sarah Sax for Mongabay“Most of the world’s 7,000 languages are spoken by indigenous people. When the language is lost, the traditional and ecological knowledge that are encoded in the language [are] also lost,” says Loh, who co-authored the WWF report. “We could be losing a lot of potentially valuable knowledge. Who understands the species and the relationships to the ecosystem better than the people who have lived there for centuries?”The central idea of biocultural diversity is that the diversity of life on Earth is comprised not only of biodiversity but also of cultural and linguistic diversity, “all of which are interrelated (and possibly coevolved), within a complex socioecological adaptive system,” according to The Oxford Handbook of Endangered Languages.“People became interested in biocultural diversity for the same reasons people became interested in global biodiversity: It was starting to decline rapidly,” Loh says. A conservation biologist turned biocultural scientist, Loh became interested in the connection between biological and linguistic diversity when he became aware of the fact that thousands of languages worldwide were spoken by just a few people, largely in the tropics. “It very much reminded me of rare, endemic species distribution. So I started to do research. And here I am.”Biocultural diversity and the SáparaIn 2001, UNESCO recognized the language and traditions of the Sápara as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” in large part because of their complex oral culture, which is deeply marked by their environment and reflects a profound knowledge of the Amazonian jungle.Walking through the rainforest with a hunting party of Sápara, their deep knowledge of the forest is never far from sight. They bring no water or food with them. A large curuarawangu liana is cut, and from it flows sweet, filtered water. A midday snack of chonta palm and tuco, a grub that lives in the roots of the palm, is produced. A paca, a large forest rodent, is killed, and from the dozens of vines surrounding the hunting party, the sturdiest and most flexible are expertly chosen to tie up the heavy animal and carry it back to the community.The tuco grub, which lives in the roots of the chonta palm is a staple for the Sapara. Image by Sarah Sax for Mongabay.By far the most rapid losses in linguistic diversity have occurred in the Americas, where 60 percent of languages are threatened or have gone extinct since 1970.“There is so much to learn about the different Amazonian languages,” Bernat Bardagil Mas, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in Amazonian indigenous languages, tells Mongabay. “What little we do know is this: How rich Amazonian linguistic diversity is, and how endangered most of the languages are.”According to Loh, most of the languages threatened with extinction are evolutionarily quite distinct from the few dominant world languages; they also represent very different cultures and knowledge systems. If trends continue as they have, this vast store of knowledge could largely be lost by the end of this century.“Conservation biologists sadly in the past have just focused on biological diversity,” he says. “But particularly in those biodiversity hotspots that are also linguistic and cultural hotspots, conservation really needs to take into consideration and conserve the whole of biocultural diversity, instead of just the biological diversity.”The Sápara now have a language revitalization plan in place, which includes teaching children the language at school, and developing pedagogical tools to help both children and adults relearn the language. For Ushigua, there is no doubt in her mind that any attempt to revitalize the language will directly impact the Sápara’s ability to also protect their forest.“Years ago I made the point that protecting the integrity of our forest and protecting our culture and language went hand in hand, but there were no spaces to do both, so I chose to fight for our territory,” she says. “But if the forest goes extinct, we as a people are done. And if we were not here, the forest would not exist in the same way it does today. It’s that simple.”The Sapara control 400,000 hectares of rainforest in the Ecuadorian Amazon, most of which sits on top of oil reserves that the Ecuadorian government is considering exploiting. Image by Sarah Sax for Mongabay.Banner Image Caption: The Sapara have been living in the Ecuadorian Amazon for centuries; their language and traditions reflect a deep knowledge of their environment. Image by Sarah Sax for Mongabay.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Article published by Willie Shubertcenter_img Amazon Biodiversity, Amazon Conservation, Anthropology, Biocultural Diversity, Culture, Food, Forests, Human Rights, Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Rights, Language last_img read more

‘Radically changing’ a rare Mauritian plant’s story: Q&A with ecologist Prishnee Bissessur

first_imgArticle published by Shreya Dasgupta Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Biodiversity, Conservation, Endangered Species, Environment, Forests, Green, Interviews, Interviews With Young Scientists, Plants, Tropical Forests, Wildlife center_img Roussea simplex, a unique plant that grows only on the mountains of Mauritius, is the only species in its genus, with just 250-odd individuals remaining in the wild.Prishnee Bissessur, a graduate student at the University of Mauritius who has been studying the plant since 2015, has “radically changed what was known of the plant’s ecology so far,” according to one ecologist.Mongabay spoke with Bissessur to learn about her work on Roussea simplex, what makes the plant so fascinating, and the challenges of studying it. The plant Roussea simplex, usually referred to by its scientific name, is one of a kind. It grows only in the mountains of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius; it’s the only species in the genus Roussea; and the only species in the entire subfamily Rousseoideae. It’s also down to just 250-odd individuals in the wild, which means that most people will likely never encounter it in their lifetime. For Prishnee Bissessur, it was love at first sight.Before 2014, though, Bissessur had never climbed a Mauritian mountain and never seen the plant. But prodded by her professor at the University of Mauritius, who was hoping she would study the rare plant, she hiked up the thumb-shaped Le Pouce mountain in the northwest of the tiny island to see what the fuss was all about. Close to the summit, R. simplex, a plant with woody vines that scramble atop other trees, was in bloom, displaying its pendulous yellow flowers in full glory. “They were so beautiful that anyone who would see them would fall in love,” Bissessur told Mongabay.Falling in love was one thing, but when Bissessur went back and started digging into the scientific literature on the species, she quickly realized that the plant was more complicated than she’d anticipated. “It’s called Roussea simplex, but it’s more like Roussea complex,” she said.Now a graduate student at the University of Mauritius, Bissessur has been slowly unraveling R. simplex’s mysteries. Her research has even overturned some of the more well-known aspects of the species, named after the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For instance, for a long time the plant was thought to have just one specialized pollinator and seed disperser: the blue-tailed day gecko (Phelsuma cepediana), a lizard found nowhere else on Earth. But by placing camera traps around the plants, Bissessur’s research showed that the gecko has company, including the Mauritius bulbul (Hypsipetes olivaceus), a bird known only from the island.Her work has also shown that invasive alien ants, previously believed to be a major threat to the plants because they disrupt pollination by the geckos, aren’t as big a menace.“The many findings made with the PhD studies of Prishnee has radically changed what was known of the plant’s ecology so far,” Vincent Florens, an associate professor of ecology at the University of Mauritius, told Mongabay. “It has also equipped us with a much better understanding of the drivers of the species’ decline, which is already informing more impactful conservation.”Blue-tailed day gecko. Image by Jjargoud via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).Both Florens and Bissessur see R. simplex, locally known as Liane Rousseau, as more than a single species in peril. They say that it will serve as a model species to understand other island plants and the threats that plague them.“I am confident that the story of Roussea can serve more widely as a good example of the fascinating and important discoveries that can be made about a species’ natural history through painstaking yet relatively simple field observation and experimental approaches,” Florens said.However, plants, especially those without any known medicinal value, are challenging to study. There’s very little funding, Bissessur said, and few people want to help during the field work.Mongabay recently spoke with Bissessur to learn about her work on R. simplex, what makes the plant so fascinating, and the challenges of studying it. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.Mongabay: Could you tell us a bit about the plant itself?Prishnee Bissessur: Roussea simplex is a really slow-growing plant that’s epiphytic [grows on the surface of other plants for physical support, not food] and it scrambles, growing into dense canopy. It is protandrous, which means that its flowers transition from male to female. It has sticky pollen and it produces quite a lot of nectar. It flowers all year round, but there are two flowering peaks, one during July to December and then April to June.So if one were to see them in a forest would they be easily identifiable?Yes, very much so. They are shrubs and don’t look like trees. And there are not many similar-looking plants in Mauritius. If it’s flowering, you can definitely not miss it.Prishnee Bissessur with a Roussea simplex plant. Image by Vincent Florens.People are usually interested in animals. What is it about Roussea that fascinated you the most?When you think of it, in terms of the food web, it’s mostly the plants that are at the base, and then you narrow it up to the top predators. For me, studying plants was always interesting because animals depend on plants. And it was not just the plant itself but all the interactions that come with it that was interesting. Roussea is unique in the sense that it was discovered that it’s pollinated by the endemic gecko, and it was also one of the first plants to be discovered with double mutualism; that is, it was considered to be pollinated by the gecko and seed dispersed by the gecko as well. Also, we’re using Roussea as a model island plant. The idea is to use Roussea to identify threats that are causing it to decline and show how by systematically studying the lifestyle stages of a plant you can actually pinpoint where the problem lies, and address them. Because other island plants are also facing similar threats, the results from Roussea are applicable to them as well.Where can one find Roussea simplex?Both the genus Roussea and the family Rousseacea to which Roussea simplex belongs are endemic to Mauritius, so you can’t find them anywhere else on Earth. In Mauritius, Roussea is currently found in only nine locations, mostly concentrated in the southwest and northwest of the island.Finding where it’s now located was the first part of my study. I did a thorough literature review to look for mentions of sightings and locations of Roussea. I also spent a lot of time looking at herbarium specimens and collated information on Roussea’s distribution from those. In the end, we retrieved 18 locations. We did field work to check if the populations were still there, but we were able to retrace only nine of them. So there’s been almost a 50 percent decline in the distribution over the last 250 years. And for the last 20 years, there has been drastic decrease in their population size.In 2004, Dennis Hansen [of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the University of Zurich in Switzerland] reported that there were only 85 to 90 individuals left, but we did a more comprehensive study. For now, we estimate there are around 250 individuals on the whole island. But the population trend is still constantly declining. If we were to Red List it according to IUCN, it would be considered as endangered.Where are the nine locations where Roussea simplex can still be found?About 95 percent of the plants occur in protected areas, that is, nature reserves, national parks, and mountain reserves at high elevations. But only one of the sites, a conservation management area, is currently being actively managed. So the managers do active weed control, and the area is fenced.What are some unusual tools you’ve used to study Roussea?So the most interesting one, I think, is the Bushnell trail camera. I wanted to look at animals that visit Roussea flowers because the only reported ones were the grey white-eye [Zosterops mauritianus] and the Phelsuma geckos. But the Bushnell cameras revealed interactions that had not been observed earlier, and which we would have missed. For example, black rats are a big problem for Roussea. They are eating a lot of these flowers. They usually make holes at the base of the flower to get to the nectar and even chop whole flowers. That’s one of the interactions that I’m going to study next. But they are nocturnal and we wouldn’t have seen them in action if there were no camera there. We also caught monkeys [long-tailed macaques, Macaca fascicularis] on the cameras.If you sit and observe the plants, it can probably change the behavior of animals. The cameras helped us to do it in a way such that the animal was not aware that it was being observed. For my next study, I’m going to use rat traps to see if controlling rats has an impact on flower production.Black rats often make holes at the base of Roussea flowers, damaging them. Image by Vincent Florens.A monkey caught on camera trap feeding on a Roussea plant. Image courtesy of Prishnee Bissessur.You found that the blue-tailed day gecko is not the only pollinator of Roussea as previously thought. Could you tell us about some of your findings?[Using camera traps, Bissessur and team found that Roussea flowers were visited by three endemic birds — the Mauritius bulbul, the grey white-eye, and the olive white-eye, Zosterops chloronothos — as well as two endemic reptiles: the blue-tailed day gecko and the ornate day gecko, Phelsuma ornata. Three species not native to the island, the long-tailed macaque, red-whiskered bulbul and the black rat, visited the flowers too.]We found that the Mauritius bulbul visits the flowers quite frequently and on camera footage we could see that the bulbul could carry pollen, which is quite sticky, on its beak. What we did was to see whether it could be a more efficient pollinator than the gecko because it’s a bird, so it can fly to longer distances and do cross-pollination of the plant. We carried out a series of experiments including pollinator exclusion experiments. For the latter, we used three treatments: we placed metallic cages around some flowers to exclude the birds, giving only geckos access to the flowers; we bagged some flowers with nylon bags, so neither gecko nor the bird could have access to the flowers; and some of flowers were left completely open for both pollinators to access. Then we looked at the seed set of fruits that developed post these three different treatments.In the end, we found that the bulbul was a more efficient pollinator than the gecko.Interestingly, Hansen and Müller showed that when the great white-eye, which is a smaller bird and has a short beak, goes into a flower for nectar, the pollen sticks to the bird’s feathers on its head. When it then goes from flower to flower, it is not able to transfer the pollen. But the Mauritius bulbul has a longer beak, so the pollen is deposited on the beak instead of the feathers, and when it goes from flower to flower, it can actually deliver the pollen successfully.A Mauritius bulbul feeding on the nectar from a Roussea flower. Image by Jean Michel Probst.You have also been looking at threats to Roussea from invasive alien ants. Could you talk about that?Hansen and Müller showed that these ants infest the flowers for nectar, and they make these ant galleries around the flower in the corolla. So when the ants are present, the geckos don’t visit the flowers. And due to lower frequency of visits by the geckos, there’s lower pollination, and then lower seed sets. What I was interested to see is whether this disruption is something that occurs all year round, or it varies through time, and across sites.I looked at around 1,468 flowers over two consecutive years, and I found that a very low number of flowers were actually infested by ants — only 6 percent of the flowers. And most of the infested flowers were found below one-meter [3 feet] height. So what we find is that when there are invasive plants like strawberry guava (Psidium cattleyanum) and Clidemia hirta [commonly called soapbush], Roussea collapses to the ground, and this makes it more accessible to the ant.Why does the presence of invasive plants cause Roussea to move closer to the ground?Roussea is epiphytic, so when the host tree has to compete with other invasive plants, and it dies, Roussea just collapses to the ground as well.So far, it had been shown that ants are a big problem for Roussea. But it seems like their effect is quite negligible. Instead, when you look at the bigger picture, it’s actually invasion by alien plants that is having a bigger impact. I’m now looking at the competition between Roussea and invasive plants.Roussea simplex. Image by Vincent Florens.What are some of the biggest challenges in studying Roussea? And is it hard to get funding?I presume that’s one of the problems of every researcher, but I think for those working on plants, it’s even more challenging because we are not working with charismatic animals like big cats, or cute mammals. My research is partly funded by Mauritius Research Council, but it covers only tuition fees. The rest is all self-funded. I even tried crowdfunding for the rat control study because I had to buy camera traps and rat traps, but so far it’s been funded 12 percent.One of the challenges I face when talking about my plant is that the very first question I get is, “Does it have any medicinal properties?” Or, “Does it cure cancer?” So people are always looking at what the plant can give.It’s also challenging to do field work because it’s quite hard to find assistants or people who can go with me. So, I end up having to rely mostly on family and some friends who can spare some time to accompany me because it’s quite dangerous to go alone.In terms of Roussea, because I have nine locations to work with, I’m quite restricted in terms of where I can set up experiments and my sample sizes, but you can always explain that because there are very few individuals left. So you make do with what you have.How do you think your research can help in the conservation of Roussea?At the end of the study, we will come up with conservation measures to propose to conservation managers. Some of those are very basic in terms of control of invasive plants, or translocation of pollinators like the bulbul to habitats where they are locally extinct. But what I would suggest is to not do micromanagement, because in the case of rare species, while micromanagement can be useful in the short term, it is very unsustainable in the long run. For our case, management would be addressing the invasion of alien plants, and rat control. But you’ll also need to do constant monitoring to see if the conservation measures that have been put in place are still working, or if they need some revision.At the end, we will pose some solutions to conservation managers, but it’s not only going to benefit Roussea itself, it’s going to benefit all the surrounding native plants equally.Roussea flowers damaged by black rats. Image by Vincent Florens.last_img read more