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Vegetation of Le Mondrain

V E G E T A T I O N 



The vegetation is a low ridge Eugenia / Sideroxylon thicket growing under a fairly dry regime of about 1700mm rainfall/year. Species in the reserve include both those from the humid upland forest as well as a few from the drier lowland forest.

The relief of the Vacoas ridge is such that most species that are in the reserve show a characteristic dwarfness in their natural state at Le Mondrain. Most of the species are less than 6m tall, although, the same plant in the Pétrin or Macabé forests and the Black River Gorges, may have their canopies well above 40m above the ground. The Labourdonnaisia revoluta “Bois de Natte Le Gentil” and the Diospyros tesselaria “Bois d’Ebène Noir”, which are among the tallest, have a height of 5-6m. This paradoxical phenomenon, explained by the shallowness of the soil, which is constantly eroded in summer-rains, offers the advantage that the plants foliage and flowers can be studied and admired from ground level itself.

Now, this low ridge-type, mid-altitude vegetation characteristic of Mondrain is highly interesting because it contains species that have become extremely rare or extinct elsewhere in Mauritius, as well as forming one of the best-preserved examples of this type of vegetation. Unfortunately elsewhere along the Vacoas ridge the native forest has almost entirely disappeared, principally due to degradation by exotic species and woodcutting pressure. 

The result of a study plot of 50m x 20m established in June 1985 in the reserve – within which all exotic plants were uprooted – showed that the tree packing was very dense, with 2,836 individuals greater than 50 cm tall inside the 1000 m2 plot. This makes an estimated 28,400 individuals growing in one hectare, with a possible total of 142,000 trees and shrubs inside the reserve. Unfortunately, about one hectare of the reserve has been cut over in the past, such that the reserve probably does not have this number of trees and shrubs. It must be remembered that, once, Mauritius was covered by such a type of forest, while now the original vegetation has been reduced to a few hectares in Mauritius. 

However, the major reasons to preserve the Mondrain are:

Exotic plants and weed
The endemic species in Mauritius are generally slow growing; exotics which had invaded the Reserve in the past, caused a decline in the number of endemics since the native flora has had to compete with the fast growing exotics such as “Goyave de Chine rouge” Psidium cattleyanum and the treelat Ligustrum robustrum var warlkeri “Privet” and several weeds, such as Desmodium barbatum “Herbe Gallon” and Stenotaphrum dimidiatrum “Chiendent bourrique”. 

Introduced animals 
With a high deer population around the reserve, the danger of these introduced animals, is that they not only damage the native plants, but also help propagate the invasive exotics. But most damage is caused by rats. These rodents not only eat the fruits, as do the monkeys, but also eat the young seedlings and thus compromise the propagatin of the endemics in the Reserve. 

Extremely rare and endangered plants
In one of the recent publications, for the year 2000, of the “L’Union Nationale pour la Conservation de la Nature (I.U.C.N.)” of Geneva, it is revealed that the Hibiscus genevii of Mauritius is on what is known as the  red-list of endangered species. Fortunately, the situation is so alarming as budding of this species has been successful at Le Mondrain and at the “Pepeniere” of the National Parks of Mauritius.
But less successful is the Chassalia boryana of the family of Rubeaceae,  the vernacular name of “Bois Corail”. This treelet, with beautiful white flowers resembling the corals of the lagoon, and that show up in December/January, is one of the rarest (if not THE rarest) species in Mauritius. In fact, the one found at Le Mondrain, is the only one found in …this universe!

With the lost of the one-before-last species of “Bois Corail” which was on the top of Piton du Fouge, during one of the last cyclones, this delicacy certainly merits much more attentin for conservation and its propagation.

Besides the rich flaura at Le Mondrain, we can also appreciate a-not-so-rich fauna; the spot is frequently visited by the white-eye “pic pic” Zosterops borbonica, the Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus, endemic gecko Phelsuma cepediana, butterflies and the native land snails.

Therefore, conservation should be, but the interest, besides economical factors. The threat of depleting endemics is clear and present and we … as mauritians risk to lose our identity if our national heritage is not saved. 

 

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