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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2006  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 194-230

Forest Cover, Condition, and Ecology in Human-Impacted Forests, South-Eastern Madagascar

1 Columbia University, Earth Institute, 1200 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027, USA.
2 University of Edinburgh, Crew Building, The King's Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JN, UK.

Correspondence Address:
Jane C Ingram
Columbia University, Earth Institute, 1200 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027, USA.

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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The littoral forests of south-eastern Madagascar are a national conservation priority due to high degrees of biodiversity, but face pressures from regular human use and a future mining operation. A landscape scale as­sessment of deforestation patterns, forest condition and composition of re­maining forest stands is important for understanding the nature and distribution of human pressures and could act to inform land use management and identify conservation priorities throughout the area. In light of these is­sues, the aims of this study were threefold: to document patterns of littoral forest loss at multiple spatial and temporal scales; to map littoral forest structure across the landscape; and to assess the abundance and diversity of littoral forest tree species valuable to both humans and conservationists. The methods applied include satellite remote sensing applications and ground­based ecological surveys. We demonstrate three results: first, patterns of for­est loss are spatially and temporally variable; second, forest basal area, an indicator of forest condition, can be estimated using multi-spectral satellite data, artificial neural networks and ground survey data; and third, littoral forests possess high abundance and diversity of tree populations of impor­tance for both conservation and human livelihoods, despite regular use by lo­cal people. A landscape perspective, combined with an understanding of the local human and environmental context, is crucial for understanding the na­ture and impact of human pressures on forest resources, and, thus, determin­ing optimal management possibilities.

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