Mapping recent deforestation in northeast Madagascar
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.
Unmanned aerial vehicles
Partners: Wildlife Conservation Society, Madagascar
Since 2011, we've been experimenting with a variety of small, inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for conservation. These platforms have included a hexacopter (Mikrokopter) and several arduplane models (e.g. Bixler with APM 2).
To date our focus has largely been mapping and aerial photography, but these platforms have tremendous potential for monitoring forest cover, mapping tree height, tracking wildlife, change detection, environmental enforcement, and other applications.
We have also been experimenting with a variety of methods to generate georeferenced ortho-mosaics and 3D models from data collected, including Agisoft Photoscan, dronemapper.org, and simple mosaics with tools like Microsoft ICE. Preliminary results include the following. A fly-through of a 3D model from Maravolonana, Madagascar near Makira Park, and mosaics from the KAFS field station, the FOFIFA forest reserve near Kianjavato, Madagascar, and a small farm near Maroantsetra, Madagascar.
Biodiversity database and monitoring system, The Gambia
Clients: Department of Parks and Wildlife Management, The Gambia; The Global Environment Facility (GEF); WWF-Senegal.
The Gambia’s coastal and marine biodiversity is nationally and internationally significant and provides important ecosystem services to local communities. Although a set of conservation areas is currently in place to safeguard this heritage, biodiversity resources in the region face considerable and increasing pressure from a human population expected to grow at an annual rate 3-4% into the foreseeable future and nearly double to 2 million people by the year 2025.
Coastal systems are under particular threat: 91% of The Gambia’s population lives within 100 km of the coast,
and these coastal populations are increasing in number and density. Population density in The Gambia is already
among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. It is well known that coastal ecosystems (e.g. mangroves, wetlands) provide
important direct and indirect environmental services to people, supporting fisheries and preventing coastal erosion
for example. Human activities having direct and indirect impacts on these resources are also well documented.
For example, urban encroachment, industrial development, increasing agricultural activities, fuelwood extraction
and over-harvesting have all been cited as threats to the Tanbi Wetland Complex, a recently designated Ramsar
Site within the vicinity of Banjul in the Western Division. In short, coastal resources are finite. As
human population grows in size and density in The Gambia’s coastal zone, it will likely increasingly impact
the coastal resources on which it increasingly depends.
Protecting The Gambia’s coastal resources so that they continue to provide services to
people over the long term without degradation will require active and balanced
management of the ecosystem. Biodiversity – the sum of biological resources in the
coastal zone, from mangroves to local freshwater fish – is the immediate source of
resources on which people depend. Effectively managing these resources, therefore,
requires consistent, organized and relevant data to measure status and trends of biological resources over time.
To this end, we have designed a biodiversity monitoring system and database with several main components. These are:
- Focal targets, such as marine turtles, selected through a consensus-driven process
- Quantitative conservation goals for each focal target
- Indicators designed to quickly assess and communicate progress towards goals
- Monitoring programs to collect necessary data and measure progress over time
- Monitoring databases and other technical tools, such as GIS and remote sensing, for data analysis and storage
The final report for this project may be downloaded here:
Allnutt, T.F., Dia, I.M. and Touray, O. 2007. Biodiversity Monitoring System and Database for The Gambia. Unpublished report. 47 pp.