Considered to have potential as a future World Heritage Site
Location and Area: A serial site comprising 7 widely separated reserves has been identified by the Madagascar authorities, and this is likely to capture the full range of values of the dry forests. (see map)
Inscription Status: Included on Madagascar’s Tentative List (2015)
Important Values: The dry forests of western Madagascar are among the world’s most exceptional forests and support hundreds of threatened plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. Several of Madagascar’s characteristic lemur species occur in these forests, together with seven unique species of baobab trees.
Slideshow of the Dry Forests of The Andrefana (see below for description)
Slideshow description: The slideshow illustrates the great diversity of unique plants and animals that are associated with the dry forests of western Madagascar and features a series of photos from the extraordinary ‘spiny forest’ found in the south-west of the island. Each of the 7 isolated blocks of forest that would be included in a proposed serial world heritage site supports a unique assemblage of species, many of which are narrowly endemic to a particular region of the island. Madagascar is famous for its baobab trees and the slideshow begins with a stand of giant baobabs near Morondava, in the core of the ‘dry forest zone’. Two other endemic plants that are specially adapted to the dry forest zone are Pachypodium lamerai, its cluster of leaves supported on a bulbous spine-covered stem that stores water, and a Malagasy vine (Cyphostema laza) which stores water in its bulbous foot and maintains some photosynthetic function in its swollen stems even after it drops its leaves in the driest periods of the year. Sifakas are the family of lemurs best adapted to life in the dry forests, and Verreaux’s shifaka (a particularly striking animal visually with its red-brown cap and white fur) appears never to drink and favours life in the southern spiny forest. The big-headed gecko is a nocturnal creature of the dry forests, while tenrecs (hedgehog-like insectivorous mammals) have diversified into some 27 species in Madagascar, each adapted to a particular habitat niche. The most southerly of the dry forests to be included in the proposed world heritage site is Andohahela (the western-most block, Parcel 2), an area of spiny forest dominated by giant cactus-like members of Didiereaceae family. This area is featured in the rest of the slideshow, with some broad landscape views as well as detail of particular plants and animals. Chameleons feature prominently in the Madagascar fauna – about half the world’s chameleons are unique to Madagascar, with about 67 species currently described from the island. Baobabs and palms are dominant trees with many species found nowhere else in the world, while ring-tailed lemurs are the most terrestrial of lemurs, found only in the dry forests of the southwest. The slideshow concludes with views of the spiny forest at Andohahela.
Possible constraints to world heritage listing: World heritage status could help support conservation efforts in these globally important areas but the economic development challenges facing Madagascar are immense and poor rural communities depend on some of these areas as a source of timber, fuelwood, charcoal and other natural resources.
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