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Paradise in danger: the deforestation of Madagascar

Since the beginning of the 20th century, half of the forested surfaces of the world have disappeared. The deforestation of Madagascar is one of the most worrying of the tropical world, and for a good reason: this island is a unique cradle of biodiversity on our planet. And yet, tens of thousands of hectares of forest have been razed over the years and today there remains only 10-13% of the original Madagascan forest.

Madagascar, Garden of Eden

madagascar-deforestationThe fourth biggest island in the world is one of the most incredible ecosystems of the planet. From the highest peaks at 800 meters of altitude, one can see the vast tropical forests alongside arid savannahs, which soon change into immense plains punctuated by vast lakes. Arriving on the coast, one can see beaches of fine sand that stretch as far as the eye can see!

And in the turquoise waters, there are coral reefs and aquatic jungles abounding with life…

The incredible diversity of the ecosystems present on the island has permitted the development of a number of countless species of animals and plants.

Indeed, 90% of the flora and 80% of the fauna are endemic to the island, which is to say that these species EXIST IN NO OTHER PART OF THE PLANET. We can name, for example, several species of baobabs, hundreds of medicinal plant as well as almost all the species of lemurs in the world, half of the chameleons, hundreds of amphibians, and aquatic fauna so vast that it is still unknown.

Plant

Mammal

Bird

Reptile

Amphibian

Fish

Number of species

12 000

160

283

363

238

165

Globally Threatened Species (CR, EN, VU)

280

45

35

20

55

73

Endemic

96 %

88 %

51 %

90 %

99 %

96 %

Causes of Deforestation

deforestation-madagascarOf the 20 million hectares of forest present on the island in 1885, the FAO estimates that there are only 12 million left today. Each year, 200-300,000 hectares go up in smoke. At present, the deforestation of the island is at catastrophic proportions.

Paradoxically, is Madagascar possesses an incomparable richness in terms of biodiversity; it is nevertheless one of the poorest countries in the world. And to survive, the Madagascans use the forest in a destructive and unsustainable way.

  • The main cause of deforestation of the Grand Island is the cultivation of the slash-and-burn crops called “tavy” in Madagascar. This cultivation technique consists of partially clearing a plot of forest before burning it.

This “pioneer” agriculture is developing rapidly at the expense of the forest due to several factors: increased population pressure, land saturation in the most fertile lands devoted to intensive crops, and a loosening of state control over forest clearing. déforestation-madagascar

The problem is that this technique is absolutely not sustainable! After 5 or 6 years of using it, the plot is no longer profitable because the soil is too depleted. The farmer must therefore abandon the land and make a new clearing.

  • Charcoal, the main source of energy in Madagascar, is also a source of deforestation. In fact, it takes 10kg of wood to produce 1kg of carbon. To give you an idea, in 2012 110,000 hectares of forest which were razed were for the production of carbon!

  • Finally, we can mention the illegal trade of rosewood. This valuable essence is now highly valued by the Chinese nouveaux riches among others. Thus, the plundering of these trees is reaching its peak, irremediably disturbing the balance of the ecosystems

The consequences of deforestation in Madagascar

  • The soil erosion is one of the main consequences of deforestation. As tree roots are no longer there to maintain the soil, the soils collapse under wind and rain causing an enormous loss of arable land which was already lacking.

But the soil erosion also causes an accumulation of sediments in the rivers, reducing and disturbing aquatic ecosystems.

  • Another direct consequence of deforestation is the increase in greenhouse gases. These are the plants which store and convert monoxide into oxygen. In addition to the tons of carbon dioxide emitted by machines, thousands of tons of CO2 are released into the atmosphere when trees are burnt.

  • Finally, unsurprisingly, the disappearance of many plant and animal species. Among the most threatened are lemurs, small primate which live ONLY in Madagascar.

    deforestation-madagascar

  • If deforestation continues at this pace, researchers estimate that they will have completely disappeared within 20 years. As for the plants, according to study carried out by the Mikea forest, deforestation also means that 75% of the original plant species will disappear as well.

Solutions ?

If this assessment is alarming, there are still possible solutions:

  • Support local population for the management of forest areas.

  • Tech more cost-effective and sustainable cropping methods.

  • Raise awareness of environmental issues

I invite you to discover the “Holistic Forest Conservation Program” (in French) of Madagascar.

Camille Handrich, rédactrice EVI.

camille-handrich

I think that the only way to save our planet is to arouse consciousness.

It’s us, still so little on the Earth, who can maintain her alive. We have to fight, inform people, act on it ! Everyone can do something on its own scale to build the world of tomorrow.

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