Located off the coast of East Africa, Madagascar contains about 5 percent of the world’s known plants and animals, with 90 percent of the wildlife species found only in the island nation. Endemic species include lemurs, fossa, and tenrec—and all are threatened with extinction due to loss of habitat.
According to research published in April 2023 via ScienceDirect, which examined deforestation in Madagascar between 2001 and 2021, the island has already lost 80 percent of its natural areas and continues to lose and estimated 200,000 hectares annually to deforestation. As of 2000, 29% of the island was covered in trees (17.1 million hectares). By 2021, Madagascar lost 4.85 million hectares of tree cover, or a 25 percent decrease of the forest present in 2000.
Deforestation occurs from many things, including illegal logging of wood, charcoal production, slash-and-burn agriculture, and organized anti-government forest arsonists. Climate change, along with dense and very impoverished population (28 million people with average income of less than $2 USD per day) are root problems driving deforestation in Madagascar.
In this research paper, Dr. Amanda Suzzi-Simmons points out, “the year 2021 was marked by an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the Great South of Madagascar – cyclical famine, one of the worst droughts in 40 years, an invasion of locusts (June-July), sandstorms, and diseases that affect both plants and animals. In 2022, the country was impacted by five tropical cyclones, floods, and landslides, which has increased levels of poverty and reduced resilience to natural hazards. Tackling poverty is the key to saving Madagascar’s forests.”
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired a false-color image of southwestern Madagascar on November 13, 2023. In this type of image, vegetation is bright green, and the more dense the vegetation, the brighter the green. Open land is tan and ocean appears deep blue-black. A second false-color Terra MODIS image was acquired on November 18, 2005. To compare the stark forest cover change in southwestern Madagascar during this time, simply toggle between the two images by clicking on the dates.