Burned Forests Threaten the Frogs of Madagascar – Guest Post, Franco Andreone
We are so pleased that Franco Andreone, Associate Curator of Zoology, Responsible for Herpetological and Ichthyological Collections, Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino, Italy, offered to write a guest post for Frogs Are Green about his recent visit to Madagascar and what he encountered there—the possible extinction of frogs species due to the destruction of its forests.
In October, I visited the Ankaratra, a massif next to Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo, for a quick trip in an attempt to see two of the most threatened (maybe “the most threatened”) frog species of Madagascar: Boophis williamsii and Mantidactylus pauliani.
They are both CR species and live in an area that is not yet protected and has been heavily altered. For some time, on behalf of the Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), we have advocated the need for protecting this area. To this end, a project has been set up with the help of Conservation International and the collaboration of many colleagues, with the aim of securing the area, which is also very important because it is a draining basin for potable water for the city of Ambatolampy. Through the ASG it was also possible to get a MacArthur grant that will be helpful for any further action.
Some people, notably from the Langaha Association and Madagasikara Voakajy, have begun work on the species, along with other herp species (i.e. Furcifer campani); they have collected data on both B. williamsii and M. pauliani. The two species appear VERY localised, with no more than three spots where they have been found. M. pauliani appeared a little bit more common, but we observed less than ten B. williamsii individuals.
I was already concerned about the threats to these species and their habitat. The bad news is that during the rapid survey we did (a few hours visit), we noticed that almost ALL the exotic forest was burned. This forest, composed mainly of pines, assured a certain naturalness to the area, and prevented erosion. Now, following the voluntary burning events of last July, almost all the forest has been “transformed” into charcoal. This will have serious and terrible consequences for the human populations, especially for the availability of drinking water. Most likely, during the next rainy season there will be accelerated erosion and the water will become heavily polluted. Clearly the amphibian populations will be tragically affected as well. Although one of the sites is still within a small parcel of “natural” forest, the burned trees are all around, and at the other sites the fire event has destroyed the small residual (ferns, grass) vegetation that likely assured the survival of the species.
During the visit we found some B. williamsii, but we really wonder what the effect of the next rains will be. The tadpoles need clear and clean water, and if the water is polluted by erosion, they will most likely die.
Furthermore, there really is a risk that the species will be driven to extinction within a short time.
For more information, please visit my website: www.francoandreone.it