The Ebenaceae is a cosmopolitan family of ca. 750 species of small to large trees that includes numerous precious hardwood species commonly referred to as ebony, as well as several species widely cultivated for their edible fruit (kaki or persimmon). Continued forest clearing worldwide and unsustainable exploitation of ebony for its rich, black wood pose significant threats to many species. As an economically and ecologically important group of trees distributed throughout tropical and temperate forests, Ebenaceae are thus a particularly well suited family of trees for a global assessment of diversity and conservation status.
The Global Ebony Assessment (GEA), led by Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG), aims to improve our understanding of ebony diversity worldwide as well as promoting their conservation. The Global Trees Campaign is contributing to this project, undertaking a global ex situ survey of Diospyros. This will assess current collections, allow the identification of priority species for new ex situ collections and provide recommendations on best practice for increasing the genetic diversity of ebonies in ex situ cultivation. In addition, GTC aims to gather information on uses and trade of ebonies worldwide. GTC will also support red listing activities of the GEA.
The full three year GEA project has the following objectives:
- Establish a baseline list of accepted names and synonyms of ebonies.
- Describe the ca. 120 new species of ebonies in Madagascar.
- Complete red listing of the ebonies working in collaboration with the Global Tree Specialist Group, through a series of workshops worldwide.
- Conduct a survey of ebony species in cultivation in botanical gardens worldwide, providing recommendations on best practice for increasing the genetic diversity of ebonies in ex situ cultivation, and consult with international timber organizations to assess the global exploitation and international trade in ebony.
- Conduct intensive conservation genetics studies on the highly threatened endemic Mauritian ebonies to inform ex situ and restoration strategies.
- Carry out comprehensive inventory of the ebonies occurring within MBG’s 12 conservation sites in Madagascar, and establish living gene banks of ebonies from both within those sites as well as from nearby unprotected forest fragments.
GTC has conducted a survey of ex situ ebony collections which is now available for download here.