How can we help save magnolias?
In 2005, Fauna & Flora and partners intervened to rescue a critically endangered Chinese magnolia, Magnolia sinica, whose wild population was down to single figures. Like other magnolias growing in the country’s so-called protected areas, it was not benefiting from any practical conservation action on the ground. We brought together botanists, government representatives and local communities to develop a coherent plan that would safeguard this species and other threatened Chinese magnolias by ensuring dramatic improvements in protected area management.
Since discovering the only known populations of Magnolia grandis in Vietnam, Fauna & Flora and our in-country partners have been working with local communities to protect these and other threatened trees. Community conservation teams conduct regular patrols across critical Magnolia grandis habitat areas, ensuring protection from further illegal logging activities. These community-led patrols have stopped timber extraction in its tracks.
Working alongside cardamom farmers, we have highlighted the value of this fast-growing species as canopy cover for their shade-loving crop. Realising that protecting Magnolia grandis populations can help improve their livelihoods, many farmers have stopped weeding out magnolia seedlings. Recent field surveys recorded over 800 Magnolia grandis saplings that had regenerated naturally since our project began.
With fewer than 250 mature individuals left in the wild in Vietnam, strengthening Magnolia grandis populations has been key to reducing extinction risk. Seeds collected by community conservation teams have been sown in local nurseries and cared for until ready to be planted in community forests. Some farmers are directly requesting nursery-grown seedlings for their cardamom plantations. Our team has reintroduced over 4,000 Magnolia grandis seedlings back into the landscape. The success of the project has led to the main tree nursery being expanded and two new ones being set up in neighbouring villages.
Community-led patrols are not only protecting threatened magnolias, but have also halted hunting of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, one of the world’s rarest primates, which shares its forest home with the largest surviving population of Magnolia grandis.