Dry deciduous forests of Madagascar

Avenue du Baobab

MORONDAVA is a city located in MENABE REGION of which it is the capital, in Madagascar.  It is located in the delta of the MORONDAVA RIVER.

The city is famous, amongst other things, for the spectacular AVENUE of BAOBABS nearby.  These giant BAOBAB trees are an 800-year-old legacy of the dense tropical forests that once throve here.  Over the years, as the country’s population grew, the forests were steadily cut down, leaving only the Baobab trees, which the locals preserved for religious reasons.  Today, deforestation still continues, as large areas of the region, including some of the few remaining Baobabs, are cleared to make way for sugar cane plantations.


The TSINGY de BEMARAHA STRICT NATURE RESERVE, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located 150km north of Morondava.  The road from Morondava is poor, but Tsingy de Bemahara is reachable b 4×4 in approximately 10hrs.  In the south there is the ANDRA NOMENA RESERVE.

KIRINDY FOREST is a nature reserve about 60km from Morondava, where many of the local species of lemurs, as well as other plants and animals can be spotted during a day or night trip.


Here one can also see the DRY DECIDUOUS FORESTS that represent a tropical dry forest eco-region generally situated in the western part of Madagascar.  The area has a high numbers of endemic plant and animal species, but has suffered large-scale clearance for agriculture.  This clearance is on-going and therefore WWF has designated these forests as a GLOBAL 200 eco-region, one of the world’s most crucial regions for conservation.

Kirindy forest

The MANAMBOLOMATY lake area, in particular, is home to many species of fish and birds.  It is also home to distinctive limestone KARST formations.  The forest span the coastal plain with its limestone plateaus emanating virtually at sea level to higher altitudes to 800mts.  The area includes wetlands and grasslands as well as dry forest that has a “deciduous canopy” extending to a height of 14-30mts, and lower storeys with dense shrubs and saplings, which may also contain some evergreen species.

dry deciduous forests Madagascar

These dry deciduous forests of Madagascar possess a very high ratio of “species endemism”, although the absolute number of total endemics is less than the wetter eastern rainforests of the island.  Trees have adapted to the drier climate by shedding leaves in the dry winter season (May to September) to limit evapotranspiration.  Moreover, some species like Baobabs have adapted by evolving the ability to store copious water in their large bulbous trunks.  An interesting feature of these dry forests is the presence of PACHYPODIUM HABITATS, often associated with hot dry conditions of life in a landscape of canyons and tsingy (limestone karst outcrops).  One well-known area is ANKARANA.

Several of Madagascar’s characteristic lemur species are found here including the fat-tailed dwarf lemur, 5 species of PROPITHECUS, 3 species of LEPILEMUR and 5 species of MICROCEBUS.  Endemic mammals include 3 endangered species ———-golden-crowned SIFAKA, Perrier’s SIFAKA and western forest rat as well as mongoose lemur, northern rufous mouse lemur, pygmy-mouse lemur, golden-brown mouse lemur, Milne-Edward’s sportive lemur.

dry deciduous forest Madagascar

As well as lemurs, the dry forests are home to the island’s largest predator, the FOSSA, and some smaller carnivores.  Among reptiles, the ANGONOKA TORTOISE is also endangered.  The lakes and rivers of the dry forest region are homes to most of Madagascar’s bird species.


The dry forests have almost entirely been destroyed by overgrazing and deforestation and there has also been slash-and-bur subsistence farming in much of the area, reducing forest habitat and applying pressure to some endangered species.  Slash-and-burn is a method, sometimes used by shifting cultivators to create short-term yields from marginal soils.  After clear-cutting and burning a residual sparse, sometimes sterile grassland savannah remains.  When practised repeatedly or without intervening fallow periods, the nutrient-deficient soils may be exhausted or eroded to an unproductive state.  Because trees grow slowly in rocky soils, regeneration time may be measured in centuries, but the toll of extinct species is permanent.  Protection of these dry forests would assist in preservation of these diverse ecosystems.

2 thoughts on “Dry deciduous forests of Madagascar

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s