The island nation of Madagascar harbors a remarkable flora and fauna, amply justifying its status as a globally recognized priority for biodiversity conservation. However, the inventory, description, and documentation of the Malagasy flora are still very far from complete. A renaissance of taxonomic studies on the flora over the past 25 years has revealed that the true plant diversity of Madagascar has been grossly underestimated. To respond to this dynamic environment, with its exceptionally high rate of new species discovery, the Missouri Botanical Garden and its partners have launched the Vahinala Project: A Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Madagascar. The aim of the project is to create an expedient, up-to-date and authoritative online synthesis of the plants of Madagascar for a diverse group of users, making all information on the flora available through the eFloras Website.
The completed Catalogue will provide Species Pages for the Encyclopedia of Life for the ca. 11,000 plant species endemic to Madagascar. Rich digital content, including images and scanned literature, will facilitate identification and future research. By creating a comprehensive, accessible source on the plants of Madagascar, the Vahinala Project will directly contribute to national and international efforts to conserve Madagascar?s natural resources, the ultimate key to sustainable development.
. The catalogue presents an up-to-date, comprehensive, and accessible synthesis of the native and introduced plants of the world's fourth largest island. Of the 11,350 accepted species, 8,921 are endemic to Madagascar, i.e., occur only there. Each of the accepted species is provided with a Species Page that records basic taxonomic information (place of publication, synonyms, and type specimens), global distribution, distribution within Madagascar by province, region, elevation, bioclimate, and vegetation, habit, rarity, and presence in protected areas. Associated with the Species Pages are 168,679 specimen records visualized on maps, and 15,423 images of living plants (11,395) and scans of specimens (4,028). Species are aggregated on 1,689 Genus Pages where there are links to 4,018 literature references. The current status of our knowledge on all of the genera and species is summarized in the Summary and Status Directory on each of 239 Family Pages, with the number of undescribed species estimated and the need for further research noted. During the course of the project, 73 papers have been published in or submitted to scientific journals, with 131 new names published by project staff. The Vahinala Project has also provided important professional training opportunities for two U.S. post-doctoral researchers and several young Malagasy botanists, all of whom have benefited from study visits to the Museum of Natural History in Paris. The Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Madagascar serves as the baseline for future research on the flora of Madagascar, and as the backbone for conservation status assessments. By creating an open access source on the native and introduced plants of Madagascar, the Vahinala Project directly contributes to national and international efforts to conserve and sustainbly use Madagascar's rich and unique natural resources.