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An appraisal of biodiversity conservation in the littoral zone of Sainte Luce, southeastern Madagascar

Sam Hyde Roberts.

The littoral forests of Madagascar represent a distinct phytogeographic habitat and support a diverse assemblage of plants and animals. Now largely confined to a series of small, isolated fragments along the eastern side of the island, littoral forest biodiversity is greatly imperilled. Sainte Luce (also known as Manafiafy), in the extreme southeast, represents one of the most intact littoral regions, yet is subject to a range of intense anthropogenic pressures. With mineral mining operations now imminent in the area, the appraisal presented herein sets out a new baseline for biodiversity conservation efforts and describes a series of specific recommendations and actions to minimise anticipated losses. This paper explores in detail each of the major local threats and provides an up to date review of most major vertebrate groups. Based on genetic evidence, long-term monitoring and developments in forest management and community use over two decades, this account makes explicit the loss of several key species and highlights a number of taxonomic groups and research topics that require further attention. Using this synergistic approach and a range of relevant criteria, a list of 21 priority species is presented. Finally, the work highlights several on-going local conservation initiatives, and reflects on the progress made towards earlier conservation recommendations and goals. Local managers and stakeholders must now consider all available conservation tools if current levels of biodiversity are to be maintained in the long-term. The preservation of largely intact standing forest should be prioritised, augmented by carefully considered restoration and afforestation initiatives. Forest habitat connectivity and the protection of key frugivore-plant interactions remains crucial. If efforts to conserve local biodiversity are to succeed, communications and knowledge sharing between all invested groups is essential.

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Malagasy Nature
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