Ossiculum, a monotypic flagship genus for orchid conservation in Central Africa (OSSICULUM)

Programme : Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (https://www.speciesconservation.org)
Durée : 2017 - 2018

Mots clés

Angraecoid orchid, Cameroon, Central African rainforest, IUCN conservation status, pollination, seed bank, shadehouse.

Résumé

The monotypic genus Ossiculum was first discovered in 1980, inside the Mungo River Forest Reserve (MRFR). During the following quarter century, the sole species, O. aurantiacum, was not collected again, even though several thousand botanical collections have been made in the MRFR area. Recent road construction along the edge of the reserve provides greater accessibility to the area where the species was originally collected, but has also resulted in intensification of forest clearance and encroachment of small-scale cash-crop agriculture. Based on the unique collection, O. aurantiacum was assessed as Critically Endangered by IUCN. However, our recent intensive orchid fieldwork in Cameroon resulted in new collections from two localities in the Banyang-Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary. In both sites, the species was found in the canopy of large trees in moist lowland forest. The Banyang-Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary is widely held to be one of the most biologically important forest complexes in West Central Africa, harboring 325 documented bird species, 33 large mammals and 63 reptiles from 18 families. Plant diversity remains to be extensively studied in this area. Recently, a large industrial-scale palm oil plantation project was developed in the southwest of the sanctuary, isolating the biodiversity it contains and endangering the threatened species living within and around the plantation, including our targeted species, O. aurantiacum. This project will contribute to the long-term conservation of the highly threatened species Ossiculum aurantiacum using an integrated approach involving the training of African scientists and students. Broad, detailed knowledge of the targeted species will be obtained and then used to design and promote effective conservation measures, such as long-time ecological survey work and banking viable seeds. In addition to in situ efforts, our expanded ex situ program will aim to insure the persistence of this highly threatened orchid genus and its associated flora and habitat. Specifically, we aim to:

  1. search for new locations and collect baseline population demographic data of O. aurantiacum by focussing our orchid field surveys on two key protected areas of southwestern Cameroon;
  2. study the ecology, and especially the pollination biology, of O. aurantiacum via monitoring of in situ populations. We will use the rope climbing method to access viable populations in the canopy and camera traps to elucidate key aspects of its breeding system;
  3. develop local infrastructure and capacity for the long-term conservation of the target species and other rare species cultivated in our African shadehouse network
  4. use these data to update the IUCN Red List assessment of O. aurantiacum IUCN and generate long term conservation plans that include propsed management actions.