Forest Research Objectives
Madagascar boasts some of the most spectacular biodiversity in the world: lemurs, tenrecs, baobabs and over half of all known chameleon species. Much of this biodiversity is endemic. The Operation Wallacea surveys are completing research on the dry forests and associated wetlands of Mahamavo in the north and the reefs around Nosy Be Island.
The Mahamavo dry forest ecosystem and adjacent wetlands have exceptional biodiversity. Diurnal lemurs include Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithecus coquereli), and common brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus) with another 5 – 6 species of nocturnal lemurs. Madagascar is the global centre of diversity for chameleons. Two spectacular species are found in Mahamavo, Furcifer oustaleti and Furcifer angeli. The wetlands support the critically endangered Madagascan fish eagle (Haliaeetus vociferoides), a flagship species for the area, and Humblot’s heron (Ardea humbloti), an endangered species.
Whilst Madagascar has now declared 17% of its land area as protected areas, much of this land is already severely degraded, so the actual area of land under protection is much smaller. An alternative approach to just declaring land as protected and not allowing any usage, is to develop community managed areas such as Mahamavo, where there is a patchwork of protected and managed areas. DTZ, the German Technical Support Agency, has established a series of community managed forests in the Mahamavo area that appear to be successful and may form the basis for conservation and improving livelihoods in other parts of Madagascar.
The objectives for the Opwall research programme are to monitor how the forest structure and biodiversity changes over time in the community managed forests of Mahamavo, both to document the performance of a community managed area in terms of biodiversity conservation as well as to identify additional areas where a forest replanting programme could be initiated to extend the forest coverage. In addition the Opwall teams are documenting the biodiversity value of the adjacent wetlands with a view to getting this area upgraded to a Ramsar site.
Marine Research Objectives
Nosy Be is the premier dive destination for Madagascar but there are few data available on the reef fish communities or health of the reefs. In 2014 Opwall began completing surveys around the Lokobe Reserve area and anecdotal data indicated that fish stocks and reef health had improved from previous years. The team will be completing stereo-video transect surveys of the reefs to collect data on the reef fish community composition and biomass, the percentage coral cover, coral community structure and levels of bleaching and disease on the reefs.