Partners: Wildlife Conservation Society, Carnegie Institution for Science, World Wildlife Fund, University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University Center for the Environment
Since the onset of a political crisis in 2009, there have been widespread and increasing reports of illegal activities in Madagascar’s national parks, including deforestation, logging of precious hardwoods, mining, and poaching of endangered species. From 2008 to 2009, for example, trade records show that exports of rosewood (Dalbergia spp.) from Madagascar to China, the world’s largest consumer of Malagasy hardwoods, nearly tripled. This increase is generally attributed to illegal logging in Masoala and Marojejy protected areas in northeastern Madagascar following a transfer of presidential power in March 2009, which has been widely characterized as a “coup d’état”.
Despite the attention this issue has received in the press, since the coup there have been few attempts to quantify the rate and magnitude of these changes in Madagascar's national parks. This is due to the fact that these areas are often extremely remote, and many of the changes to the forest are too small to be detected by traditional remote sensing methods.
In this study we demonstrate new methods for mapping deforestation and small-scale forest disturbance in Masoala national park. We find the rate of forest change in 2010-2011 within the study area (1.27%) to be higher than the most recently published annual deforestation rate for all of Madagascar. This result is particularly alarming given that Masoala has the highest level of legal forest protection in Madagascar, and highlights an important and persistent problem within Madagascar’s largest national park.
See full study published in Tropical Conservation Science.