Thursday, June 12, 2008

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Mikea Forest

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On an island known for endemic species, the South Malagasy spiny forests in the southwestern corner of Madagascar are one of the islands most distinct ecosystems. Within Mikea Forest, the unusual Didierea madagascariensis (see photo) and Euphorbia stenoclada as well as the more common Adansonia fony are among the most widespread tree species. Mikea Forest is also home to many endemic reptile and bird species. Two bird species unique to the Mikea Forest, the sub-desert mesite (Monias benschi) and the long-tailed ground-roller (Uratelornis chimaera), are classified as vulnerable.

The area of Mikea Forest shown in these images has lost approximately 28 per cent of its primary forest cover in the last three decades and the rate of loss appears to be accelerating. The white dashed line shows loss between 1962 and 1999. The 2002/2003 image shows deforestation advancing still further to the west.

A large portion of the forest has been lost to charcoal production, most of it for commercial sale in Toliara. This is especially true at the southern edge of the forest where road accessibility is greatest. Further north, slash-and-burn maize cultivation is practiced by the Mikea people native to the area. Most of this maize is for local consumption. This appears to be the driving force of forest loss along the eastern edge of the forest, which has moved almost 10 km to the west since 1973.
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