Tree ferns of Madagascar

Land plants evolved over a period of more than 450 million years. It has been suggested that many of the dramatic changes in plant diversity have been responses to substantial changes in the physical and biological environment in which land plants grew.

Madagascar is home to more than 63 taxa of Malagasy scaly tree fern, which are almost exclusively confined to the island. This diversity comes from three rapid radiations that were independent but happened at the same time and show the same climate adaptations.

An evolutionary geobiological study was able to show that they were probably triggered by substantial climate fluctuation at the end of the Cenozoic, around 1.5-5 million years ago.

This result provides valuable insight into the importance of climate change in forming the highly threatened biodiversity of tropical regions such as Madagascar.

This approach is being used to look at subjects from the early revolution of ecosystems that followed the emergence of the first land plants, to aspects of Cretaceous revolutions, and the recovery of temperate vegetations after the last ice ages.