Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climate change and deforestation: Pre-human effect on biodiversity in northern Madagascar

Date:
July 23, 2012
Source:
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC)
Summary:
A recent study questions the prevailing account that degradation of tropical ecosystems is essentially a product of human activity. Their findings call for reassessment of the impact of local communities on their environment.

Propithecus tattersalli, a tree-dwelling sifaka, inhabits the forests of the Daraina region in northern Madagascar.
Credit: Lounès Chikhi, IGC

A recent study, by an international research group led by Lounès Chickhi, group leader at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (Portugal) and CNRS researcher (in Toulouse, France), questions the prevailing account that degradation of tropical ecosystems is essentially a product of human activity. Their findings call for reassessment of the impact of local communities on their environment.

Related Articles


The impact of deforestation on loss of biodiversity is undeniable. Madagascar, a biodiversity hotspot for its richness of endemic species, has been especially hard hit by deforestation and subsequent destruction of natural habitats, caused mainly, it is thought, by human pauperisation, economic activities and population growth. A recent study, by an international research group led by Lounès Chickhi, group leader at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (Portugal) and CNRS researcher (in Toulouse, France), questions the prevailing account that degradation of tropical ecosystems is essentially a product of human activity. Their findings call for reassessment of the impact of local communities on their environment.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the research shows that the population of golden-crowned sifaka (Propithecus tattersalli), inhabitants of the Daraina region in the north of Madagascar, indeed contracted dramatically, but at a time that precedes human arrival on the island. Furthermore, by examining aerial and satellite photographs of the Daraina region, the researchers concluded that forest cover in this region has remained remarkably stable over the last 60 years, thus excluding any strong effect of humans on the environment.

Taken together, and combined with historical and paleontological records, the findings strongly suggest that the present-day open habitats of Daraina are a result of pre-human climatic changes (such as the Holocene droughts, which happened between 10 000 and 4 000 years before the present time). These may have been the cause of the increase in open landscapes in northern Madagascar, and subsequent reduction in the number of the tree-dwelling Golden crown sifakas.

The team combined genetic data, which holds specific signatures of major population contraction or expansion events, with remote-sensing data (aerial photography and satellite imao ges), to look at a long-lasting and controversial question in conservation biology: to discriminate between the contributions of human and natural factors to changes in ecosystems.

Their findings are highly relevant for the communities of climatologists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists and conservationists, as Lounès Chikhi describes, "There is no doubt that humans have played a major role in driving several Malagasy species to extinction, since their arrival on the island. Although our findings relate to a specific region in Madagascar, they shine the spotlight on how important it is that conservation projects account for regional differences. The presence of humans, we have demonstrated, may not be the only cause for loss of biodiversity. It is risky to alienate local communities by excluding them from their territories, rather that bringing them on as precious allies to help conservationists find local answers for sustainable resource management."

Lounès Chikhi points out that, despite their findings, there are not many reasons to be over-optimistic. The golden-crowned sifaka is amongst the most threatened in Madagascar -- the IUCN recently proposed that it be included in their Red List as critically endangered. Furthermore, the Daraina region may be affected by plans to tar the main road which crosses the habitat of these lemurs, and increased poaching and mining, since the political coup in 2009, mean that conservation efforts needs to be maintained and indeed strengthened.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Erwan Quéméré, Xavier Amelot, Julie Pierson, Brigitte Crouau-Roy and Lounès Chikhi. Genetic data suggest a natural prehuman origin of open habitats in northern Madagascar and question the deforestation narrative in this region. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1200153109

Cite This Page:

Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC). "Climate change and deforestation: Pre-human effect on biodiversity in northern Madagascar." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120723162455.htm>.
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC). (2012, July 23). Climate change and deforestation: Pre-human effect on biodiversity in northern Madagascar. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120723162455.htm
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC). "Climate change and deforestation: Pre-human effect on biodiversity in northern Madagascar." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120723162455.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) — A mudslide triggered by monsoon rains buried scores of workers' houses at a tea plantation in central Sri Lanka on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and leaving more than 250 missing, an official said. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) — The Galapagos tortoise has made a stupendous recovery from the brink of extinction to a population of more than 1,000. But it still faces threats. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saharan Solar Project to Power Europe

Saharan Solar Project to Power Europe

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) — A solar energy project in the Tunisian Sahara aims to generate enough clean energy by 2018 to power two million European homes. Matt Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) — Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins