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Ascension Island 'extinct' parsley fern rediscovered during International Year of Biodiversity
Date:6/25/2010

covered by bleak, forbidding lava flows, which have never made it a comfortable place for plants to evolve. Only 10 species are known to be truly 'endemic' found nowhere else in the world (5). Goats were released onto Ascension by Portuguese explorers in the 1500s, and ate their way voraciously through the island's greenery for 350 years before the flora was even described to science. By this stage, there wasn't much left, and the introduction of rabbits, sheep, rats and donkeys, together with over 200 species of invasive plants, further squeezed out the island's original plant inhabitants. With the rediscovery of Anogramma ascensionis the island's surviving six endemic plant species are now boosted to a magnificent seven.

It is hoped that the rediscovered parsley fern will be restored eventually to some of its former wild habitats on Green Mountain, where it perhaps once played a role in helping to stabilize the crumbly cinder cliffs of the mountain. Despite this success story, all of Ascension's endemics remain dangerously close to extinction, and dedicated efforts, like those mounted to save the parsley fern, are needed to prevent the loss of a unique part of the UK's biodiversity heritage.

Ascension Island's Plant Officer, Matti Niissalo, who trained at Kew Gardens, says, "Taking this fragile plant to cultivation has so far gone to plan, probably better than anyone expected. However, even if the future of the species in the nursery becomes secure, this does not mean that plants in the wild need any less attention from the conservation team."(6)

Professor Stephen Hopper, Director, RBG Kew, says, "At a time of unprecedented loss of biodiversity, this exciting discovery gives us hope that species can cling on and that recovery of species is a very real possibility. The UK Overseas Territories are home to the UK's richest biodiversity. Kew has a long history of working in partnership with local conservationists of the UK Overseas T
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Contact: Bronwyn Friedlander
pr@kew.org
44-020-833-25605
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Source:Eurekalert

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