Country Profiles

Madagascar - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Madagascar is a megadiverse country with a high concentration of endemic species. Its ecosystems include many types of forests, savannah, steppes, rivers, lakes, wetlands, mangroves, drylands and reefs. Currently, these unique ecosystems are home to approximately 12,000 species of vascular plants (96% endemic), 586 species of ferns (45% endemic), 194 species of palms (97% endemic), 1000 species of orchids (85% endemic), 389 species of reptiles (90% endemic), 278 species of amphibians (100% endemic), 282 species of birds (37% endemic), 159 species of fish (66% endemic), 104 species and subspecies of lemurs (100% endemic), 60 species of non-flying small mammals (92% endemic), 43 species of bats (73% endemic) and 13 species of carnivore (77% endemic). With 5,600 km of coastline, coastal areas are composed of natural environments that are among the richest and most diversified in the Indian Ocean region, including coral reefs, mangroves, phanerogam seagrass beds, estuaries and coastal marshes. Studies and literature reviewed indicate the presence of 752 coral fish species in Madagascar. The diversity of Malagasy marine mammals is represented by 28 species, including 27 cetacean species, and only one species of the order Sirenia (Dugong dugon).

More than 80% of the country’s original forest cover has been lost, with primary forests covering only 12% of the country at present. However, all studies suggest that, while forests continue to be lost, they are being lost at a slower rate; the rate of deforestation declined from 0.82% during the 1990s to 0.55% between 2000 and 2005 and 0.4% between 2005 and 2010. The most rapid rate of deforestation is occurring in needleleaf forests that are declining at a rate of 1.1% per year. Many coral reefs in the country have also been degraded. In 2013, the total number of species submitted to IUCN for classification was 3,024, including 166 critically endangered species, 290 endangered species, 11 extinct species and 476 vulnerable species. Because of the country’s high rate of endemism, the loss of one hectare of forest in Madagascar has a larger effect on biodiversity than forest loss elsewhere in the world. It is estimated that the economic benefits of ecotourism from protected areas over the last 5 years are in the order of USD 57 million, and in the order of USD 80 million in relation to hydrological services.

The benefits provided by biodiversity in Madagascar are enormous. More than 18 million people are dependent on biodiversity for their subsistence needs, with 80% being essentially entirely dependent on natural resources. At least 70% of the population is dependent on resources derived from agriculture and other vegetation. There are 2,300 plants used for medicinal purposes in the country, 90% of which have not been commercialized. Traditional healers have never constituted a threat to the conservation of biodiversity. It is only once a certain species begins to be exploited commercially that the species begins to decline. The export of medicinal plants is based on 50 species, of which 33 are forest-based. Medicinal plants in Madagascar are a potential source of great income and scientific advancement. In addition to ecological services and medicinal plants, the potential for ecotourism through the protected areas network is enormous. Tourism is currently the third largest source of foreign currency for Madagascar.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The general trend of biodiversity degradation, both for flora and fauna, is primarily caused by destructive human practices, such as the clearing of natural habitats (0.55% per year) and overexploitation of natural resources. Hunting is also a major threat to large species in Madagascar. More recently, the impact of climate change on biodiversity has become apparent, particularly in the marine and coastal environments. The main causes of deforestation are: expansion of agriculture (driven by population growth), charcoal production and other issues related to energy needs, forest and brush fires, mining, forestry, overexploitation and poverty. The main threats to agricultural biodiversity are poverty, inappropriate or non-existent policies, insufficient resources, lack of coordination among the different actors operating in the sector, poor management of agricultural resources, limited valorization of biological resources, limited protection of cultivars and seeds, limited training related to agriculture, weather conditions, soil degradation, land insecurity, low valuation of traditional agricultural practices and changing food habits.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The National Strategy for Sustainable Management of Biodiversity (NSSMB) was established in 1996. The principles of the NSSMB are: to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions of the entire population by reducing poverty, based on knowledge (modern and traditional), ownership, and a sense of common welfare; to be part of the development process (at the local, regional and national levels); to take the development of international trade into account; and to promote realistic alternatives. The NSSMB is structured around three strategic orientations: 1) conservation of biodiversity (ecosystems conservation; wild genetic resources conservation; agrobiodiversity conservation); 2) sustainable valuation of biodiversity (improve knowledge regarding economic, ecological and sociocultural values of biodiversity; improve the situation of under-valued and under-used biodiversity products; develop ecotourism); and 3) reduction of the pressures on biodiversity resources (improve behavior towards biodiversity; enforce legislation; develop alternatives to the destruction of timber and natural resources; develop biosecurity).

The NSSMB also discusses the need for more protected areas, capacity-building, access and benefit-sharing, improved monitoring, development of partnerships, a mechanism for sustainable financing and regional, local and community planning.

The mainstreaming of biodiversity management in planning frameworks is considered a national priority. Madagascar is currently revising its National Strategy for Sustainable Management of Biodiversity (NSSMB), although partial updates were completed in 2008. An environmental program of a duration of 20 years assisted with NSSMB implementation (today, this environmental program helps empower the management of protected areas).

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

A notable success in the implementation of the NSSMB and the National Environmental Action Plan is the increase in protected areas from 3% in the past to about 8% of the country’s total area (4,751,895 ha) in 2009. The Humid Dense Forest of the East, composed of 6 national parks with a total area of about 479,661 ha, has been nominated as a World Heritage site. In addition, reforestation efforts have covered an area of 34,925 ha and, in 2008, the fight against bush fires resulted in a 75% reduction in burned areas compared to 2002.

Regarding the conservation of threatened and endemic species, various conservation strategies and plans for conservation of endangered species (amphibians, chameleons, crocodiles, lemurs, turtles, birds, vositse and Prunus Africana) have been successfully developed and implemented. Assessment on the conservation status of other taxonomic groups (amphibians, mammals, fish) has also been conducted according to IUCN criteria. To address the previous wild species trade management problems in the country, a national action plan recommended by the CITES Secretariat was developed by Madagascar. This five-year action plan was unanimously validated by national as well as international stakeholders in 2003. Consequently, the sale of ornamental plants is regulated by CITES and only approved operators have the right to export species contained on the CITES list.

Madagascar has ratified other international conventions related to biodiversity to enable it to implement the NBSAP (e.g. Ramsar Convention, Nairobi Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region). As a member nation of the Indian Ocean Commission, Madagascar is involved in a program comprised of various components, involving islands of the western Indian Ocean.

Since the 1960s, many expeditions to prospect and collect plant genetic materials have been organized by FAO, in collaboration with international agricultural research institutes and national research centers. The material collected (e.g. rice, seed of leguminous plants) is kept in cold rooms or coolers or directly planted in fields (cassava, perennial plants). The National Silo for Forest Seeds is the institution in charge of the sustainable management of forest plant genetic resources in Madagascar, where research and indoor storage are being conducted for 50 species. For the implementation of the Global Plant Conservation Strategy under the Millennium Seed Bank project, sample seeds of 2,000 species are stored for long-term conservation in the National Silo for Forest Seeds bank.

In order to mitigate environmental degradation, processes linked to protected area creation, large mining projects, petrol and oil projects, large-scale agricultural exploitation, aquaculture projects, forestry projects, road contruction, textiles, tourism, wetlands, sensitive areas are subject to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations and the Environmental Management and Social Safeguard Plan (PGES). For example, the mining sector has adopted a framework of compensatory measures which provides support for the establishment and management of a conservation area (230 hectares including 160 hectares of forest in the Mandena area), as well as for ongoing efforts to support ecological restoration.

Progress has also been observed as a result of the use of scientific data to prioritize key areas for biodiversity, implementation of environmental education policies and an environmental monitoring system, integration of the environmental dimension in the sectors, implementation of the MECIE (Making Investments Compatible with the Environment) Decree, among other environmental protection programs.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The Environmental Units Platform serves as an interface between environmental authorities, other sectoral ministries, decentralized structures, operators and other partners, offering support and advice on environmental issues relevant to each concerned ministry. The functions of Madagascar’s Clearing-House Mechanism (CHM) and knowledge management on biodiversity and biosafety are ensured by the National Office for the Environment. The National Educational Policy Related to the Environment is enforced through close collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Scientific Research and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The MECIE (Making Investments Compatible with the Environment) Decree is a legal instrument requiring public or private investors to perform an Environmental Impact Assessment on investments that are potentially harmful to the environment. The MECIE Decree does not consider the concept of Strategic Environmental Assessment (although a guide for Strategic Environmental Assessment has been produced).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The country has a national environmental dashboard that regularly generates reports on the status of the environment. Although initially designed to be a decision-making tool, the national environmental dashboard proved useful to the different types of actitives undertaken in relation to research and training at the country level. Subsequent to the creation of the administrative regions, environmental dashboards were adjusted for use at the regional level, with 90% of the regions now having their own dashboard. The regional dashboard is updated regularly. In addition, each year, the Plants Specialist Group from Madagascar conducts conservation status assessments of plants in collaboration with IUCN. In 2005, 39 plant species were prioritized for a value chain analysis and different studies were conducted to improve knowledge on flora values, such as the Plant Resources of Tropical Africa, as part of building knowledge and promoting rural development. Each taxonomic group conducts a periodic conservation status assessment. The strategy for the conservation of Madagascar lemurs was produced in 2013. In addition, the national CHM, which is now part of an international network, benefits from regular capacity-building and will be an important tool to monitor and review national implementation.