Madagascar's road map to saving species
15 April 2008
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Madagascar's road map to saving species - 15 April 2008
An international team of biologists has just completed an acre-by-acre inventory of life on one of Earth's largest and most diverse islands, and their work could well serve as a model for protecting all the world's biodiversity "hot spots" where forests and landscapes are threatened.
The unique inventory on the island nation of Madagascar comes after more than a decade of arduous field research and computer innovation, resulting in the creation of a kind of road map of the island's plants and animals that the government there will now use in efforts to vastly expand its limited network of nature preserves.
With leaders from UC Berkeley and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, the team examined and tallied more than 2,300 living species of plants and animals found only on Madagascar. They included ants, butterflies, frogs, geckos, and, of course, Madagascar's famed lemurs, those primitive primates known as prosimians that are distantly related to humans far, far back on the family tree of evolution.
More than 100 scientists worked on the inventory, and the Republic of Madagascar pledged five years ago to create 15 million acres of natural reserves - three times more than it has now, and a full 10 percent of its total landmass - to protect its most vulnerable life forms from disappearing as the population grows and seeks access to scarce arable land.
The scientists' job was to provide the Madagascar government with a priority list of the island's unique species and their irreplaceable territories that most urgently need the most protection.
The result of their effort is being published in the journal Science.
. . . read the remainder of this article on SFGate (home of the San Francisco Chronicle)
Image: A giant leaf-tailed gecko is among the unique animals that are being protected by a widespread effort. Reuters photo by Piotr Naskrecki