It is an a article dealing with the ferns of Mauritius.showing how they are preserved
|Ferns constitute an important of the Mauritian flora. It is a plant with big leaves and various species - nine thousand throughout the world. It consists of vascular cryptograms( vegetables of which the organs of fructification are hidden or hardly apparent). They play an important part as far as upgrading of the environment is concerned.Discovered by the Devonians nundreds of millions of years back: they play an essential part of the carboniferous vegetation.Their lengths differ between a few centimetres to metres for certain arborescent tropical forms. They live in moist and shady places. Most of the vegetal cryptograms reproduce through the spores. In Mauritius several species are used as interior plants of which the 'fougere plume', the capillary form or others known as Napoleon, Prince of Wales, Natale and Paire de Gants.
As Mauritians have a marked preference for these plants there is spoliation in the forest. Legislation has been passed to prevent the uprooting of these cryptograms in nature. They are being plundered from their natural habitat to be cultivated at home. At a certain period 250 species of these endemic ferns were growing and spread throughout the forests of Mauritius. However, during the last decades fifty of these species have never been seen again and it is assumed that they no longer exist.
In 1995, the Royal Botanical Garden of Edinburgh in collaboration with the National Parks and Conservations Services( NPCS) of the Ministry of Agriculture launched a project of fern preservation. A centre for the conservation of ferns on a surface area of 15m by 12m has been created at Curepipe near the Native Plant Propagation Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture with the idea to preserve the indigenous ferns. This was effected by Dr Stuart Lindsay, scientific officer from the Royal Botanical Gardern Edinburgh(RBGE)..The centre is already in operation. The ferns have been disseminated in nature to ensure their pereniality..
This preservation project was initially conceived by Dr Chris Paye, fern specialist who was a previous employee of the RBGE. It has been feasible due to a donation of 55000 pound sterlings by the British Government through the Darwin Initiative for the survival species. One of the aspects of the project was concerned about the construction of 'fern house' at Curepipe. for the proliferation of these disappearing plants. A spores laboratory was also provided for the seedling and cultivation of the ferns and a room with a pumping system facilitating the spraying of water droplets on the plants.
In the meantime, the spores had been sown at the Native Plant Propagation Centre since the preservation programme had been initiated until the ' fern house' was operational.. Two technical officers working at the nursery of the Ministry of Agriculture are reaponsible for the management of the ' fern house'.. In this context, they have followed intensive courses at the RBCE to specialise in horticulture techniques.This has enabled them to make an optimum utilisation of the new facilities and equipments available for the multiplication of ferns threatened to vanish.. Ferns will also be exposed for the interest of university students and researchers.
As regards seedling, the spores are first cleaned in such away so as to remove the existing debris. Then the cultivation area is prepared which is merely a compost. This differs according to the nature of the fern. The compost contains soil and molasses for those growing underground whereas for parasitical ferns cultivated on tthe trunk of trees it is prepared with soil and barks of pine. Hot water is used to sterilise the compost .After placing them in the compost the ferns are covered with aluminium sheets. They are conserved in a shady spot where they are left to develop. After two to three months they are ready for transplantation to their original forests on mountain flanks.
The then director of the National Park and Consrevation Service, Mr Mungroo stated that much preservation work had been undertaken during the last two decades but they had been focussed rather on the flowering plants and not specificically on the ferns. This project has therefore filled a gap in the preservation of the country's natural patrimony.
According to Dr Stuart Lindsay, who was on mission in Mauritius recently, in England only fifty species of fern exist out of which only one is endemic. Of the two hundred species existing to-day in Mauritius at least 17 are endemic to the country, a further thirty are endemic to the Mascarene Island and Madagascar. However, he pointed out that the number of indigenous ferns will probably increase when researches will be carrried out in nature.
The ferns are threatened by dangers although they are not affected by diseases and naturally resistant. Their natural habitat are destroyed by exotic plants like Chinese goyava introduced from Brazil and the ' privet' brought from Sri Lanka which invade them. These two species grow very rapidly and form dense clumps preventing ferns and other endemic plants to regenerate.
Apart from plants, they are also destroyed by human beings who ravage them in the forests and on the mountains to embellish their gardens or to sell them. The cryptograms are exposed to perils by ' fern hunters'. This obviuosly leads to a depredation of the plant.. Although the uprooting of ferns in nature is illegal this does not create any impact on plunderers. Dr Limdsay affirms that the implementation of law should be more strict.. He was surprised to see certain species of ferns classified as rare on sale at the Port- Louis market during his visit.
The doctor also laid emphasis on the extinction of a specy' L'Asplemium Mauritiensis'. But fortunately when the project had ben initiated a few years back, two spores of this plant have been rercuperated and multiplied at the Curepipe nursery. Fifty to eighty plants of this specy have been adhered up to now. Of the two hundred species of ferns in the country twenty of them are found in two distinct localities. According to Dr Lindsay the ideal is to replant the spores in their natural environment.
Both the National Parks and Conservations Services and the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation have undertaken works in this field to maintain the preservation of ferns. Cryptograms produced at the propagation centre were then transplanted to other spaces.
Dr Lindasy insisted on the fact that this presrrvation project should not be restricted to a period of two years only but at least extended to a whole decade. Funds must be raised to publish a ' Field Guide to Mauritian ferns' now that the primary phase is over thus allowing all those studying ferns to identify them and for the setting up of a genes bank where the spores would be conserved as emphasised by Dr Stuart
It must be brought out that. since a certain time stress is being laid on the preservation of the flora and fauna on a worldwide basis not only to ensure the continuity of the natural patrimony but also to preserve biodiversity on the planet. Such efforts will undoubtedly produce beneficial effects on the world environment and the ecological system. It is a salient veracity that the disappearence of certain species is equivalent to a deterioration in the ecological richness.