Haiti rediscovers a kind of magnolia loss for science since 1925

Ecology 04/08/2022

Almost a century had to pass before the magnolia of northern Haiti (Magnolia emarginata) could be seen again, a rediscovery that gives hope to a country that has only 1% of its original forests left. The discovery was made thanks to an expedition led by the Haiti National Trust, an NGO dedicated to protecting the biodiversity of this country, located on the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. 

Re:Wild, an international organization that protects and restores nature, and that funded the expedition, also pointed out that during this excursion the first photos of the plant were also taken, which was lost to science since 1925, 97 years ago.

Expedition leader Eladio Fernández, who is also the communications director of the NGO Haiti National Trust, was optimistic about the finding: "Despite the bleak state of the country’s degraded forests, it still harbors species like this that are not found anywhere else in the world, which gives us the opportunity to save them". 

The magnolias of northern Haiti used to be found in the Morne Colombo forest, an ecosystem that no longer exists due to the voracious deforestation that has destroyed 99% of the country’s forests. In fact, in 2007, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) noted that it was not known for certain whether the species had survived a major storm that had also hit the places where it was distributed. 

During the expedition, researchers discovered 16 bloomed magnolias in the Massif of the North, the longest mountain range in Haiti. From these plants they took DNA samples for analysis and hope to return between September and November to collect seeds and grow more magnolias.

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