Ecology of Madagascar

One of the most magical scientific spots on the face of the earth!

Madagascar is considered worldwide as a "biodiversity hotspot." That is, compared to most other places on earth, Madagascar has a greater number of species of organisms (plants, animals, fungi, etc.), most of which cannot be found anywhere else on earth!

There are approximately 12,000 plant species known in Madagascar, 80% of the species, and nine plant families are found only in Madagascar (that is, they are endemic). Madagascar's known ant fauna is currently comprised of 418 species and subspecies, 96% of which are found nowhere else, and the number of named species is expected to continue to grow rapidly. The amphibians (frogs) of Madagascar are 99% endemic and the number of species found on the island surpasses the number in Australia, Costa Rica, and perhaps even India. Though Madagascar is only 200 miles from mainland Africa at its nearest point, approximately 50% of its bird species are endemic. As a final example, 100% of Madagascar's native (not the introduced dogs, cats, and rats) land mammals are endemic, and five of the 14 families of living primates are found only on this island.

Scientists think there are two reasons for this amazing biodiversity (diversity of life) on the island of Madagascar. First, Madagascar has been separated from mainland Africa for about 160 million years, and from India and Australia for about 90 million years. Second, the island has seven different ecoregions (habitat types) from tropical rainforest to deserts. These occurred because of landscape structure and the southeast trade winds.

These two reasons combined to allow organisms to have plenty of time and plenty of different habitats to adapt to (giving a variety of forms of plants and animals). Because of this, we have colorful, small frogs called mantellas, alien-like leaf-tail geckos, bizarre giraffe-necked weevils, the elusive fossa, most species of color-changing chameleons, the rosy periwinkle, and much more.

In fact the biodiversity is so great, species are still being discovered in Madagascar at a very high rate! For example, between 1992 and 2003, 60 new species of frogs were described from Madagascar and between 2004 and 2009, at least five new lemurs were described.

Madagascar is one of the few places on earth where new species of mammals are still being found. Madagascar is a biological jewel. For a more complete report as well as references and internet links of interest, please contact our Fort Walton Beach headquarters.

© Mark Walvoord

© Mark Walvoord

What Can PFM Do?

PFM's current priority is working to educate the Malagasy people who directly impact the state of the southeastern rain forest. PFM recognizes both the need to protect endangered ecosystem, and that there are numerous international organizations working towards this goal. PFM's work compliments and supports the efforts of these organizations.

Madagascar's endangered forest situation is somewhat different than many areas of the world where multi-national corporations are destroying vital natural resources. Most of Madagascar's native flora have been cut back by the local populace for agriculture (rice fields and zebu grazing) and wood for charcoal. Organizations need to address these situations with appropriate education and technology (e.g., solar stoves and ovens, hydro and wind-power, better agricultural techniques, etc.). Beliefs of the local people sometimes prevent proper relationships between them and conservation organizations. When this is the case, cultural sensitivity, empathy, and education are needed to build trusting relationships. This takes time and personal sacrifice, not just formulas and methodologies. PFM is committed to just such a strategy as we tackle this difficult issue.