Cloud Forest Region Conservation Underway as Fairchild Partners with the Maquipucuna Foundation in Ecuador

Monday, March 27, 2006

Media Contact:

Paula Fernández de los Muros
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
pfernandez@fairchildgarden.org
305-667-1651, ext. 3392

For Immediate Release

Coral Gables, FL, March 28, 2006 - Right in our tropical backyard, Fairchild has recently begun leading conservation efforts in the Maquipucuna region in Ecuador, 50 miles northwest of Quito. Partnering with the Maquipucuna Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of Ecuador‘s biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources, Fairchild will work to conserve the rain and cloud forests in that region of Ecuador - known as one of the richest orchid habitats on the planet. In fact, this incredibly biodiverse region contains nearly 2,000 species of plants, 345 species of birds, 45 different mammals and countless varieties of invertebrates.

Covering four different life zones ranging from 1,000 to 2,800 meters above sea level, the Reserve is located within the Choco-Andean Corridor, one of the planet‘s top five biodiversity hotspots. "We‘re very excited to partner with the Maquipucuna Foundation," says Dr. Mike Maunder, Director of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. "They are a very professional conservation group that has achieved so much real conservation. We will be working with them on forest restoration and endangered species recovery, which is particularly exciting as we will be working on an extensive landscape-scale conservation project that will establish corridors between isolated forest areas."

One of Fairchild‘s researchers, Dr. James Gordon, recently returned from a first visit to the Reserve. "I was impressed with the sheer diversity of the cloud forest," says Dr. Gordon. "Literally hundreds of different orchids were growing in the Reserves. Not only is the Maquipucuna Foundation preserving forests, but they‘re also improving the livelihoods for rural communities through establishing organic coffee and chocolate projects."

Fairchild‘s Conservation Efforts

Fairchild is spearheading efforts for Caribbean nations to analyze the current status of their native orchid species through the process of Red Listing, done in cooperation with the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Center for Tropical Plant Conservation works with partners in the Caribbean, Ecuador, Tropical Africa, Madagascar and Southeast Asia-Pacific to promote the conservation of important plant habitats, many of which are important areas for tropical orchids.

The Fairchild Herbarium supports orchid conservation by serving as a reference for species identification, a source for historical distribution data, and a source of DNA for studies in genetics and genealogy. Of the 121 orchid species occurring in Florida, including 108 native ones, Fairchild‘s herbarium has holdings of 74 species. 

Fairchild regularly works with the conservation of six rare and threatened Florida orchid species. One of these, Tropidia polystachia, has fewer than ten individuals remaining in the wild. It was hand-pollinated by Fairchild staff, and the resultant seed pods were sent to CREW (the Cincinnati Zoo‘s Linder Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife) and TREC (University of Florida Tropical Research and Education Center).  Both of these organizations will be performing detailed seed germination and storage experiments.  Once the experiments are concluded, the seeds will be used to raise plants for restoring the species to South Florida‘s hardwood hammocks.

Two other endangered orchid species are being conserved on land managed by Miami-Dade County Parks‘ Natural Areas Management via a contract with Fairchild. An additional three Florida Endangered orchid species are among the target species in the hardwood hammock, hammock/pine rockland transition, and historic marl prairie habitats that are being restored by Fairchild. 

The American Orchid Society - Florida and Caribbean Judging Center holds monthly meetings at the Fairchild‘s Center for Tropical Plant Conservation.  The Coalition of Orchid Species has long been active with the garden. The Orchid Society of Coral Gables holds its monthly meetings in the garden and presents the American Orchid Society judged show and will further its outreach through speakers, tours and demonstrations at this year‘s fourth International Orchid Festival.

About the International Orchid Festival

Now in its fourth year, the International Orchid Festival, to be held this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 31, April 1, 2, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., creates interest, awareness and educates guests as they stroll the orchid filled paths of Fairchild and are inspired to purchase a plant or two, bring them home and enjoy their blooms each year. Whether they‘re potted and perched on the kitchen sill or placed outside in the nook of a favorite tree, orchids are amazing plants.  As hosts of the Festival, Fairchild works to establish awareness about the importance of orchid conservation.

Day admission is free to members and children 5 and under; adults, $20.00; seniors, $15.00 and children 6-17, $10.00. Chihuly Night admission is free to children 5 and under; non-member adults, $30.00, member adults, $20.00, non-member children 6-17, $20.00, member children 6-17, $15.00. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, Florida. Additional information about the International Orchid Festival may be found at www.fairchildgarden.org or by calling 305-667-1651.

About Fairchild

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is dedicated to exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants. It is one of the premier research and education-based gardens in the world and a recognized international leader in conservation. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden houses the National Palm Collection as recognized by the American Public Gardens Association (APGA), has the world‘s greatest living collection of palms; an education program reaching more than 25,000 school children per year; hosts popular events like the International Mango and Orchid Festivals, the Ramble, concerts, affiliated plant society shows and sales and more; and, is a not-for-profit organization relying on the support of its 30,000 members and benefactors. Fairchild is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida 33156. Admission is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for Children 6-17 and free to children 5 and under and Fairchild members. For more information, please visit www.fairchildgarden.org.

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