Subtropical African forests are on the verge of extinction due to a long history of exploitation. Considered sanctuaries of exceptional biodiversity, they shelter many endemic and irreplaceable species. Some component plant species remain widely distributed however, and by studying their demographic history, we might understand better the fate of these threatened ecosystems.
Mairal et al. use molecular and ecological niche modelling approaches to assess the demographic evolution of Canarina (Campanulaceae) a rare and relict plant species, but one widely distributed in Afro-Macaronesian subtropical forests. The authors report an alarming recent demographic decline in the species, highlighting how locally widespread endemics may be threatened by habitat loss. The extinction debt, and extinction spiral to which these populations are subject, demands urgent conservation measures for the last world remnants of these important forests.