Environmental Conservation

Papers

Fifty years of deforestation and forest fragmentation in Madagascar

GRADY J. HARPERa1 c1, MARC K. STEININGERa1, COMPTON J. TUCKERa2, DANIEL JUHNa1 and FRANK HAWKINSa1a3

a1 Conservation International, 2011 Crystal Drive suite 500, Arlington VA 22202, USA

a2 Code 923 NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA

a3 Conservation International, BP 5178, Antananarivo 101, Madagascar

SUMMARY

Tropical deforestation is a key contributor to species extinction and climate change, yet the extent of tropical forests and their rate of destruction and degradation through fragmentation remain poorly known. Madagascar's forests are among the most biologically rich and unique in the world but, in spite of longstanding concern about their destruction, past estimates of forest cover and deforestation have varied widely. Analysis of aerial photographs (c. 1953) and Landsat images (c. 1973, c. 1990 and c. 2000) indicates that forest cover decreased by almost 40% from the 1950s to c. 2000, with a reduction in ‘core forest’ > 1 km from a non-forest edge of almost 80%. This forest destruction and degradation threaten thousands of species with extinction. Country-wide coverage of high-resolution validated forest cover and deforestation data enables the precise monitoring of trends in habitat extent and fragmentation critical for assessment of species' conservation status.

(Received June 29 2006)

(Accepted September 26 2007)

(Online publication December 21 2007)

Correspondence

c1 Correspondence: Grady Harper Tel: +1 703 341 2761 Fax: +1 703 979 2514 e-mail: gharper@conservation.org