Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Climate change and deforestation: When the past influences the present

Terra Daily via SPX: The impact of deforestation on loss of biodiversity is undeniable. Madagascar, a biodiversity hotspot for its richness of endemic species, has been especially hard hit by deforestation and subsequent destruction of natural habitats, caused mainly, it is thought, by human pauperisation, economic activities and population growth.

A recent study, by an international research group led by Lounes Chickhi, group leader at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (Portugal) and CNRS researcher (in Toulouse, France), questions the prevailing account that degradation of tropical ecosystems is essentially a product of human activity. Their findings call for reassessment of the impact of local communities on their environment.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the research shows that the population of golden-crowned sifaka (Propithecus tattersalli), inhabitants of the Daraina region in the north of Madagascar, indeed contracted dramatically, but at a time that precedes human arrival on the island.

Furthermore, by examining aerial and satellite photographs of the Daraina region, the researchers concluded that forest cover in this region has remained remarkably stable over the last 60 years, thus excluding any strong effect of humans on the environment....

A sifaka near Andasibe, Madagascar, shot by Pmarzio, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

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