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The precious forests of Madagascar

Madagascar has many types of forests, rich in biodiversity and with a high rate of endemism. The island is home to 5% of the world's species. About 95% of Madagascar's reptiles, 89% of its flora and 92% of its mammals exist nowhere else on Earth. This natural wealth is spread in different habitats, including the forests of Madagascar. WWF is involved in the conservation and sustainable management of these forests. They have a particular biodiversity that must be preserved sustainably and have been classified as "priority landscapes". Here are some examples.

The spiny forests:
In southwestern Madagascar, the spiny forests extend from the Mangoky River in the southwest to the Mountains in Anosy Region, southeast. This region has a wide geological variation: limestone plateaus, sandy coastal plains, mountains and volcanic formations. The thorny thickets that live there are thorny plants of the endemic family Dideraceae or Euphorbiaceae. They conserve water and thanks to this particularity allow many species of the arid zones to drink. The spiny forests are home to many species. Grandidier’s Vontsira for example is a species of mongoose, which lives only on the limestone plateau of Tsimanampesotse and nowhere else in the world. The spiny forests are home to at least 160 species of birds according to "La vie au cœur des épines : un aperçu " a scientific document by WWF. Reptiles and amphibians such as the radiated tortoise also live there. The thorny forests are threatened because of their richness. WWF manages the protected area of Amoron'i Onilahy with the communities and collaborates with Madagascar National Park in the protection of the spiny forests and the radiated tortoise in the National Park of Tsimanampesotse, 85km as the crow flies south of Toliara.

The dry forests:
Some of the forests in western and southern Madagascar are dense dry deciduous forests, meaning that they lose their leaves seasonally.  Most trees lose their leaves during the dry season (May to October), leaving a litter of leaves on the ground. Dry forests are characterized by a very high local endemism of plants and animals.  In the dry forests live for example the Fosa, Cryptoproca ferox and the Verreaux's Sifaka. Unfortunately, the remaining dry forests are fragmented and severely threatened by clearing for grazing and agriculture. With an expanding rural population and increasing degradation of existing arable land, the pressure on dry forests is extremely high. Selective logging and removal of large trees are additional threats.

The Rainforests:
Rainforests are found along the eastern slope of the island, particularly important for endemism and diversity. Hundreds of species of vertebrate animals and perhaps thousands of plant species are strictly endemic to the rainforests. The rainforests extend from Marojejy in the north to the mountainous Beampingaratsy plateau in the Anosy Region. WWF supports communities and authorities in the sustainable management of COMATSA's highland rainforests, which are part of Madagascar's second largest terrestrial protected area, the Ambohimirahavavy Marivorahona Protected Area Complex (CAPAM). These forests of northern highlands are also among the most threatened habitats due to land clearing and vanilla cultivation.

The mangrove forests:
These are forests that develop in intertidal areas, between the sea, the coast and the rivers. At high tide, it is necessary to navigate between them by boats or pirogues. During low tide, you can cross the mangroves on foot. They have a strong capacity of carbon sequestration; they mitigate the impact of storms and the rise of the sea on the coastline. Mangroves are a nursery for fish and crustaceans, a nest for birds, and are very productive areas for small-scale fishing of crabs, shrimps, fish... Madagascar has the second largest expanse of mangroves in the Indian Ocean with more than 2,000km2. For WWF, mangroves deserve a sustainable conservation strategy. In the Menabe and Diana regions, more than 120 hectares of mangroves have been restored by communities with WWF support in 2020. The main threats to mangrove forests are conversion to rice fields, illegal charcoal burning and illegal logging.

The gallery forests:
They are found along the edge of a river, stream or lake. The gallery forests are characterized by large and tall trees, such as tamarind trees. Thanks to the abundant presence of water, most of the trees or shrubs keep their leaves all year round, so the forests are always green. 
The gallery forests are the habitat of choice for some species of lemurs, including the Maki, Lemur Catta. It is a safe refuge even during dry periods because the trees are very tall and food (leaves) is available at all times. Gallery forests are therefore important in helping species cope with climate change. The main threats to gallery forests are their conversion to fertile agricultural areas, and charcoal production. The forests of Amoron'i Onilahy protected area in southern Madagascar, for example, are gallery forests.  WWF works there by implementing conservation strategies and activities with local communities. Thanks to this collaboration, deforestation in Amoron'i Onilahy protected area has been reduced from 32 hectares in 2019 to only 13 hectares in 2020.