Madagascar: Kew team give live updates from the field
Once upon a time botanical expeditions would have ventured into the unknown, only to return (hopefully) a few months later to a rapturous home-coming as they reveal their results. But conservation is changing and it's largely a result of the rapidly shifting digital landscape.
In a radical new move a GIS team from Kew are updating their expedition live to the micro-blogging site Twitter. Twitter is fast becoming the most rapid way to access up-to-the-minute news and more and more conservation organisations are capitalising on a global, news-hungry, audience.
The Kew team in Madagascar who are surveying the botanical paradise
The Kew team are in Madagascar to record and map plant life on the island. Madagascar is home to an estimated 10,000 – 12,000 plant species, over 90% of which are endemic.
Over the last 50 years human activities have had a dramatic impact on the flora of Madagascar. Today, Kew's GIS team set off on their expedition to the island. Their mission is to record information about the plant life they find and support future plant conservation work to protect plant life and habitats at risk.
The team are sending live updates from the field via their mobile phones to Twitter, providing unique access to life in the field and highlighting the importance of Kew's plant conservation work on the ground.
It is one of the top ten global biodiversity hotspots. The focus of this expedition is to find out more about areas where information about plant life is limited, such as high altitude forests (above 1,800 metres) and mountain bush vegetation.
Sadly, much of this valuable flora is under severe threat from vegetation clearance to make way for agriculture, charcoal production and timber extraction. There is also a threat from the illegal collection of orchids, palms and succulents.
Follow the Kew team on Twitter.
In March 2009 plant collectors from the UK and Chile set off to hunt for rare and endangered species with the vision of conserving these species for the future.
Smoking volcanoes, devastated towns, leech infested forests, endless breathtaking landscapes, and the beautiful but often highly endangered plant species of South America greeted the team from Wakehurst Place, Kew’s country estate in West Sussex, the Forestry Commission's Bedgebury Pinetum and Westonbirt Arboretum.