Berat

BERAT, the City of a Thousand Windows, in South – Central Albania, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (2008).

Berat Albania


The Balkan-style houses  climb up the side of the hill upon which the 13th century BERAT CASTLE is situated.  These houses, belonging to the late 18th and the 19th centuries, typically have two floors with a ground floor mad of stone and a prominent upper floor painted white and roofs covered with red ceramic tiles.  They have large wooden windows which, because of the steepness of the hill and the construction of the houses, appear to be stacked one over the other  This view has earned BERAT, the moniker The City of a Thousand Windows.

The name of the city, in Albanian, is BERAT or BERATI, meaning “White City”.  According to local legend, the TOMORR Mountain, was originally a Giant who fought with another Giant, called SHPIRAG, over a young woman.  They killed each other and the girl drowned in her tears, which then became the OSUM River.  Mount Shpirag, named after the second giant, is on the left bank of the gorge.  Berat is also known to the Albanians as the City of One Above  Another Windows or The City of 2,000 Steps.

Landmarks :

(1) BERAT CASTLE

Berat Castle


The co-existence of religious and cultural communities, over several centuries, is apparent in Berat.  The main entrance, on the north side, is defended by a fortified courtyard and there three smaller entrances.  The fortress of Berat, in its present state, even though considerably damaged, remains a magnificent sight.  The surface that is encompassed made it possible to house a considerable portion of the town’s inhabitants.  The buildings inside the fortress were built during the 13th century and, because of their characteristic architecture, are preserved as cultural monuments.  The population of the fortress was Christian and it had about 20 Churches and only 1 Mosque for the use of the Muslim Garrison (of which there survives only a few ruins and the base of the Minaret).

(2) CHURCH of Saint Mary of BLACHERNAE :

Church of Mary of BLACHERNAE


Dating from the 13th century, it has 16th century mural painting.  In a small tree-planted square, on a hillside in side the walls of the fortress, stands the 14th century CHURCH of the HOLY TRINITY.  It is built in the form of a Cross and has Byzantine Murals.  Outside the ramparts, is the CURCH of SAINT MICHAEL (13th century) which is reached by a steep but perfectly safe path.  Near the entrance, after a guardhouse, is the CHURCH of SAINT THEODORE.  The most interesting is the CATHEDRAL of SAINT NICHOLAS, which has been well-restored and is now a Museum.


Gorica bridge Albania


(3) GORICA BRIDGE , which connects the two parts of Berat, was originally built from wood in 1780 and was rebuilt with stone in the 1920s.  The seven-arch bridge is 423ft long and 17ft wide and is built about 33ft above the average water level.  According to local legend, the original wooden bridge contained a dungeon in which a girl would be incarcerated and starved to appease the spirits responsible for the safety of the bridge.

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Svaneti

Svaneti


SVANETI or SVANETIA (SUANIA in ancient sources) is a historic province in Georgia, in the north-western part of the country.  It is inhabited by the SVANS, an ethnic sub-group of Georgians.

Situated on the southern slope of the Central Caucasus Mountains and surrounded by 3,000 – 5,000 metre peaks, Svaneti is the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus.  Four of the ten highest peaks are located in the region.The highest mountain in Georgia, Mount SHKHARA, at 17,059ft, is located in the province.  Prominent peaks include TETNULDI (16,319ft), SHOTA RUSTAVELI (16,273ft), Mount USHBA ( 15,453ft), ALLAMA (14,842ft) as well as LALVERI, LATSGA and others.


Svaneti.jpg


Svaneti has two parts corresponding to two inhabited valleys ; (1) UPPER SVANETI and (2) LOWER SVANETI.  The landscape of Svaneti is dominated by mountains that are separated by deep gorges.  Most of the region which lies below 5,904ft above sea level is covered by mixed and coniferous forests  The forest zone is made up of tree species such as spruce, fir, beech, oak and hornbeam.  Other less common species include chestnut, birch, maple, pine and box.  The zone which extends from 5,904 – 9,840ft above sea level consists of Alpine meadows and grasslands.  Eternal snows and glaciers take over in areas that are over 3,000 metres above sea level.


Svaneti trekking


The climate is humid and is influenced by the air masses coming in from the Black Sea, the region is spared from the extremely cold winter temperatures that are characteristic of high mountains.


Svaneti architecture


Svaneti is known for its architectural treasures and picturesque landscapes.  The famous Svanetian Towers, erected mainly in the 9th – 12th centuries, makes the region” villages more attractive.  In the province are dozens of Georgian Orthodox Churches and various fortified buildings.  The architectural monuments of Upper Svaneti are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites..

Sassi Di Matera

Sassi Di Matera


MATERA is a city and a province in the region of Basilicata, in Southern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Matera and the capital of Basilicata from 1663 to 1806.  The town lies in a small canyon carved out by the Gravina (a river)

Known as LA CITTA SOTTERRANEA (the Subterranean City), Matera is well-known for its historical centre called SASSI, considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1993, along with the Park of the Rupestrian Churches.  The city was allegedly founded by the Romans in the 3rd century BC, with the name of MATHEOLA after the Consul Lucius Caecilius Metellus.


Matera panoramic view


Matera has gained international fame for its ancient town, the SASSI di MATERA (meaning ” stones of Matera” ).  The Sassi originated in a prehistoric troglodyte ( a human being who inhabits a cave or the area beneath the overhanging rocks of a cliff), and these dwellings are thought to be among the first ever human settlements in what is now Italy.


Sassi Di Matera streets


The Sassi are habitations dug into the calcareous rock itself, which is characteristic of Basilicata and Apulia.  Many of them really little more than caverns, and in some parts of the Sassi, a street lies on top of another group of dwellings.  The ancient town grew up on one slope of the rocky ravine created by a river that is now a small stream, and this ravine is known locally as la GRAVINA.  In the 1950s, the Government of Italy used force to relocate most of the population of the Sassi  to areas of the developing modern city.


Matera castle


Until the late 1980s, the Sassi was considered an area of poverty since its dwellings were and in most cases still are, uninhabitable.  The present local administration, however, has become more tourist-oriented, and it has promoted the regeneration of the Sassi with the aid of the Italian Government, UNESCO and Hollywood.  Today, there are many thriving businesses, pubs and hotels there.  Matera preserves a large  and diverse collection of buildings related to the Christian faith, including a large number of Rupestrian Churches carved from the soft volcanic rock of the region.  The Churches which are also found in the neighbouring region of Apulia, were listed in the 1998 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund.


Matera cathedral


MATERA CATHEDRAL ( 1268 – 1270) has been dedicated to Santa Maria della Bruna since 1389.  Built in a Romanesque architectural style, the Church has a 52metre tall bell tower, and next to the main gate is a statue of Maria della Bruna, backed by those of Saints Peter and Paul.  The main feature of the façade is the “rose window”, divided by 16 small columns.  The interior is on the Latin Cross Plan, with a nave and 2 aisles.  The decoration is mainly from the 18th century Baroque Restoration, but recently a Byzantine-style 14th century fresco portraying the LAST JUDGMENT  has been discovered.


SAN PIETRO CAVEOSO


Two other important Churches in Matera, both dedicated to the Apostle. Peter, are SAN PIETRO CAVEOSO & SAN PIETRO BARISANO.  San Pietro Barisano was recently restored in a project by the World Monuments Fund, funded by American Express.  The main altar and the interior frescoes were cleaned and missing pieces of moulding, reliefs and other adornments were reconstructed from photographic archives or surrounding fragments.

There are many Churches and Monasteries dating back throughout the history f the Christian Church.  Some are simple caves with a single altar and maybe a fresco, often located on the opposite side of the ravine.  Some are complex cave networks with large underground chambers, thought to have been used for meditation by the monks.


TRAMONTANO CASTLE,Matera was built above a deep ravine, that divides the territory into two areas.  Matera was built such that it is hidden, but made it difficult to provide water supply to its inhabitants.  Early dwellers invested tremendous energy in building cisterns and systems of water channels.


The largest cistern has been found under PIAZZA VITTORIO VENETO, with its solid pillars carved from the rock and a vault height of more than 15metres it is a veritable Water Cathedral, which is navigable by boat.  Like other cisterns in the town, many of these cisterns were turned into houses and other kinds of water-harvesting systems were realized.  Some of these more recent facilities have the shape of houses submerged in the earth.


The TRAMONTANO CASTLE, begun in the early 16th century, is probably the only other structure that is above ground and of any great significance outside the Sassi.  However, the construction remained unfinished after Count Gian Carlo Tramontano’s assassination in the riot of the 29th of December, 1514.  It has three large towers, while 12 were probably included in the original design.  During some restoration work in the main square of the town, workers cane across what was believed to be the main footings of another Castle tower.  However, on further excavation, large Roman cisterns were unearthed.  Whole house structures were discovered where one can see how the people of that era lived.  Found under the main square was a large underground reservoir, complete with columns and a vaulted ceiling.

Because of the ancient primeval-looking scenery in and around the Sassi, it has been used by filmmakers (as the setting for ancient Jerusalem).  Some of the following famous Biblical period motion pictures were filmed in Matera : (1964) The Gospel According To Saint Matthew.—- (1985) King David. —-  (2004) The Passion of the Christ. —— (2005)  Mary.  —– (2006) The Nativity Story.

Costiera Amalfitana

Costiera Amalfitana


COSTIERA AMALFITANA or AMALFI COAST is a stretch of coastline on the southern coast of the SORRENTINE Peninsula in the Province of SALERNO in Southern Italy.

The AMALFI Coast is a popular tourist destination for the region and Italy as a whole, attracting thousands of tourists annually.  In 1997, the AMALFI COAST was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a cultural landscape.


Amalfi coast Italy


During the 10th – 11th centuries, the DUCHY of AMALFI existed on the territory of the Amalfi Coast, centred in the town of Amalfi.  It was later controlled by the Principality of Salerno, until Amalfi was sacked by the Republic of Pisa in 1137.

Costiera Amalfitana_


Like the rest of the region, the Amalfi Coast lies in the Mediterranean climate belt, featuring warm summers and mild winters.  It is located on the relatively step southern shore of the SORRENTINE Peninsula, leaving little room for rural and agricultural territories.  The only land route to the Amalfi Coast is the 40km long STRADA STATALE 163, which runs along then coastline from the town of VIETRI sul MARE in the east to POSITANO in the west.  Thirteen Municipalities are located on the Amalfi Coast, many of them centred around tourism.


tour_costiera_amalfitana


The Amalfi Coast is known for its production of LIMONCELLO Liqueur, as the area is a known cultivator of lemons, known as SFUSATO AMALFITANO in Italian.  These lemons are grown in terraced gardens along the entire coast between February and October.  Amalfi is also a known maker of hand-made thick paper which is called BAMBAGINA.  Other renowned local products are a particular kind of anchovies (local Italian : ALICI) from CETERA, and the colourful hand-made ceramics from VIETRI.


amalfi-coast-2


The rulers of Amalfi are the central figures in Webster’s Jacobean tragedy —– DUCHESS of MALFI.  In the last episode of the poplar TV series ENTOURAGE, Ari Gold & Mrs. Gold are seen relaxing at the Amalfi Coast, when Ari receives a phone call to become the Chairman of Time Warner.  
The Amalfi Coast was featured in POSITANO, a short story written by American author John Steinbeck in 1953.  It was also the setting in FINDING POSITANO, A LOVE STORY, written by author William James in 2010.

Amlfi coast colorful


The Amalfi Coast is also mentioned several times in “The Coast of Amalfi”, a song by Steve Harley, appearing on his 2005 album —– “The Quality of Mercy”.


Costiera Amalfitana night


The AMALFI COAST seems to be one grand balcony suspended between a sea of cobalt blue and the feet of the LATTARI Mountains in a long stretch of hollows and promontories, coves, cultivated terraces, vineyards and citrus and olive groves.

Due to its topographical characteristics, as well as its historical evolution, it is of enormous cultural and natural value and for this, it is protected by UNESCO.

Costiera Amalfitana Italy


An ancient marine Republic, AMALFI, held the monopoly for commerce in the TYRHENNIAN, exporting Italian goods (wood, iron, arms, fruit and wine) to Eastern markets in exchange for spices, perfumes, pearls, jewels, textiles and rugs to then trade in the West.

The empty citadel of Vietnam

Citadel Ho dynasty


The most unlikely UNESCO site is the empty citadel of Vietnam —————— HO CITADEL, which was the capital of the short-lived HO DYNASTY.  It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.  You might expect a communist government to distance itself from its Imperial past, but the Vietnamese Regime has seen the value in celebrating the country’s bygone Emperors, and promoting its ancient Citadels as tourist destinations.

Since 1993, eight Vietnamese locations —— including three Citadels —— have been designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, with another seven awaiting formal classifications.
Many of these sites are of great natural or historical significance, such as HA LONG BAY and the complex of monuments in HUE.  But, the Citadel to most recently acquire UNESCO’s seal of approval (in 2011) is the almost unknown HO CITADEL, situated in a remote backwater of THANH HOA Province, around 150km south of Hanoi.
The choice of the HO CITADEL, for such a prestigious honour, is strange for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, the HO DYNASTY lasted just seven years (1400 – 1407), a mere drop in the ocean of Vietnam’s turbulent history.  Secondly, the CITADEL IS EMPTY.  That’s right ——- no palaces, no temples, no monuments ———- just four walls surrounding nothing but farmland.  ——– However, according to UNESCO, the Citadel represents “an outstanding example of a new style of Southeast Asian Imperial City”.

Ho Citadel Vietnam


Intrigued by the notion of discovering a medieval city in the Vietnamese countryside, this is what was left of the Citadel, which was built in three months and slotted together without any mortar  ——- this is an impressive feat of 15th century engineering.

The north gate of HO CITADEL was chosen according to the principle of FENG SHUI and the DON SON & TUONG SON mountain ranges protect the valley and the MA & BUOI Rivers flow on either side of the Citadel.  There are massive blocks of stone in a wall, slotted together without any mortar, and some of the stones measure several cubic metres.  The 600-year-old walls, which stretch almost a kilometre on each side, are remarkably intact, and the four vaulted gateways stand sturdy as ever.  Parts of the wall have subsided and become overgrown with grass and shrubs, but that somehow adds to the site’s “mystique”.  Encompassed within the walls is a timeless scene of corn and rice fields, ponds and dirt tracks ——— a picture of abundance and self-sufficiency.
How come the HO DYNASTY was so short-lived ?  In the late 14th century, the TRAN DYNASTY was in disarray and HO QUY LY, a regent in the court of Emperor TRAN THUAN TONG in THANG LONG (Hanoi) laid plans to usurp the throne.  In 1397, he had this new Citadel built, a task that apparently took only three months.  ——— an amazing feat of engineering in an age before power tools.  When HO invited the Emperor to inspect the new Citadel, initially known as TAY DO (Western Capital), he imprisoned and then executed TRAN THUAN TONG, established himself in 1400 as First Emperor of the HO DYNASTY.

Ho citadel


After ruling for just a year, HO QUY LY relinquished the throne to his second son ——- HO HAN THUONG, who reigned for a mere six years, after which the HO were overrun by the MING from China.  ———— Despite his brief tenure in Vietnam’s top job, HO QUY LY was responsible for the introduction of paper money and limits on land ownership as well as opening ports to foreign trade and expanding the education curriculum to include mathematics and agriculture.

The south gate, the Citadel’s main entrance, is pierced by three arches, compared to just one in the north, east and west walls.  Outside the south gate is a bamboo hut, where the walls are lined with illustrations of elephants and horses dragging huge slabs of stone from the quarry, bamboo rafts carrying the slabs downriver and men and beasts hauling the finely-cut stones into place on the wall.
From the bamboo hut one reaches an almost empty museum where a few artefacts such as stone balls for use with slingshots and a terracotta phoenix head have been recovered from the site.
Developing tourism may mean banning farming activities at the site and thus affecting local livelihoods.  As part of the deal with UNESCO, Vietnam is committed to protecting the Citadel’s Heritage, which means preventing any new buildings from spoiling the view and terminating agricultural production, such as rice farming, inside the Citadel.
Deputy Director of the Centre for Conservation of HO DYNASTY Citadel World Heritage —- NGUYEN XUAN TOAN says, “As the households possess land-use rights, they continue to build houses and other structures and that causes difficulties in protecting the Citadel.  Ploughing, raking and digging irrigation ditches within the Citadel has exposed archaeological relics and has a negative impact on the underground architecture at the site.  Looks like local farmers will have to sacrifice their land rights if their country’s leaders are determined to develop the Citadel as a tourist destination.
Wonder what HO CHI MINH, Vietnam’s National Hero would make of this conundrum !!
————— Ron Emmons for CNN.
 

Khiva

KHIVA


KHIVA is a “fortified oasis in the desert”.  It is a city of approximately 50,000 people located in the XIRAZM REGION, UZBEKISTAN.  According to archaeological data, the city was established in the beginning of the current era.  It is the former capital of KHWAREZMIA and the KHANATE of KHIVA.  ITCHAN-KALA in KHIVA, was the 1st site in Uzbekistan to be inscribed in the World Heritage List.


Khiva dunes


The origin of the name of KHIVA is unknown, but many contradictory stories have been told to explain it.  A traditional story attributes the name to one of the sons of Noah : “It is said that SHEM (from whence the word “Semitic” is derived), after the flood, found himself wandering in the desert alone.  Having fallen asleep, he dreamt of 300 torches.  On waking up, he was pleased with this omen, and he founded the city with outlines in the form of a ship mapped out according to the placement of the torches about which he had dreamt.”  Then Shem dug the KHEYVAK WELL, the water from which had a surprising taste.  It is possible to see this well in ITCHAN-KALA (an internal town of KHIVA city) even today.

Another story relates that travellers passing through the city, upon drinking the excellent water, would exclaim : KHEY VAKH ! (What a pleasure), and hence the city became known as KHEYVAKH, whence KHIVA.   
A third proposal is that the name comes from the word KHWAREZM altered  by borrowing in TURKIC as KHIVAREZEM, then shortened to KHIVA.

Khiva night


In the early part of its history, the inhabitants of the area were from Iranian stock and spoke an Eastern-Iranian language called KHWAREZMAN.  Subsequently, the Iranian ruling class was replaced by Turks in the 10th century AD, and the region gradually turned into an area with a majority of TURKIC speakers.

The city of KHIVA was first recorded by Muslim travellers in the 10th century, although archaeologists assert that the city has existed since the 6th century.  By the early 17th century, KHIVA had become the capital of the KHANATE of KHIVA, ruled by a branch of the ASTRAKHANS, a GENGHISID DYNASTY.
In 1873, Russian General Von Kaufman launched an attack on the city, which fell on the 28th of May, 1873.  Although the Russian Empire now controlled the KHANATE, it nominally allowed KHIVA to remain as a Quasi-independent protectorate.

site-de-khiva_


Following the Bolshevik seizure of power after the October Revolution, a short-lived KHOREZM PEOPLE’S SOVIET REPUBLIC was created out of the territory of the old KHANATE of KHIVA before its incorporation into the USSR in 1924 with the city of KHIVA becoming part of the UZBEK SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC.

KHIVA is split into 2 parts.  The “outer town”, called DICHAN KALA, was formerly protected by a wall with 11 gates.  The “inner town”, or ITCHAN KALA is encircled by brick walls, whose foundations are believed to have been laid in the 10th century.  Present-day CRENELLATED walls date back to the late 17th century and attain a height of 10 metres.

Khiva Uzbek


The ISLAM KHWAJA madrasah and minaret is 45m high and is the tallest structure in KHIVA.  One of KHIVA’s most “iconic” buildings is the short and  KALTA MINOR MINARET, which is covered in glazed, patterned tiles and whose beauty hits you as soon as you enter through the West Gate.  According to legend, it was built by Mohammed Amin Khan, the illustrious Ruler of KHIVA, who wanted to build a minaret so high he could see the city of BUKHARA which was 400km to the southeast.  Work started on the tower in 1851, but came to an abrupt halt after his death in 1855, leaving the 14m-wide and 26m-high tower as is.


Khiva_Itchan_Kala_citadel


More intricate tile work can be found on the spectacularly ornate SUMMER MOSQUE, located inside the KUHNA ARK, the fortress residence of KHIVA Rulers.  The Mosque is completely covered in locally-made tiles believed to date back to 1838.  Exquisite tile work can be found in many of the buildings around KHIVA,  It is worth exploring the nooks and crannies of the city to see what treasure you can discover.


Khiva mosque


Central Asia was a world centre of learning for centuries and KHIVA was no exception.  Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizm, a Persian scholar born around 780, is sometimes called the “grandfather of computer science”, and is believed to have invented ALGEBRA and the DECIMAL POINT.  The famous terms ALGORITHM & ALGEBRA come from his works.  Algorithm is a modified spelling of KHWARIZMI and Algebra derives from his famous work HISAB AL-JABR WA’L-MUQABALA.


Khiva Djuma Mosque


The old town retains more than 50 historic monuments and 250 old houses, mostly dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.  DJUMA MOSQUE, for instance, was established in the 10th century and re-built in 1788-89, although its celebrated HYPOSTYLE HALL still retains 112 columns taken from ancient structures.

————- Inputs from Phillipa Stewart.  

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.

Madagascar


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.

TSINGY de BEMARAHA STRICT NATURE RESERVE


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.


ANGONOKA TORTOISE


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.