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Researchers Identify Madagascar's Biodiversity Hot Spots with Spatial Mapping
The largest of all living lemurs, Indri indri, at Mananara-Nord, Madagascar.
[Image courtesy of Edward E. Louis Jr]
In the new issue of Science, a team of researchers describe how spatial maps could help conservationists in Madagascar protect some of the most biodiverse hot spots on the planet.
Using computers to plot the habitats of more than 2300 plants and animals endemic to Madagascar including ants, butterflies, frogs, geckos—and yes—lemurs, the team identified areas of the 587,040 sq. km island that contain the highest numbers of different species.
By prioritizing conservation efforts on the regions with the most habitat overlap (biodiversity), Claire Kremen, an associate professor of environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote that Madagascar's government will be able to protect land that represents "the highest global priority for terrestrial conservation."
"Madagascar, like other globally recognized biodiversity hot spots, has complex spatial patterns of endemism that differ among taxonomic groups (species) creating challenges for the selection of within-country priorities," Kremen wrote in the 11 April issue of the journal Science.
Giant leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus fimbriatus) from Montagne d’Anjanaharibe, Madagascar.
[Image courtesy of Piotr Naskrecki]
The use of spatial mapping to identify and protect small areas with great biodiversity is a departure from traditional conservation methods, the article noted, as previous efforts focused on small numbers of species and relatively large chunks of land.
She added that several mountainous areas and coastal forests—areas with relatively low forest cover but considerable biodiversity—have historically been neglected in favor of protecting large central forest blocks.
Just as the Madagascar government will use spatial technology "to guide the final, toughest choices" as it triples the land in its national reserves, Kremen believes computer modeling is critical for conservation efforts around the world operating with limited financial and political resources.
Kathy Wren and Benjamin Somers
11 April 2008