Cover of Scales 2014 Conservation and Environmental Management in Madagascar

Christian Kull on Madagascar deforestation

Cover of Scales 2014 Conservation and Environmental Management in Madagascar

Congratulations to GES staff member Christian Kull and his collaborator Bill McConnell of Michigan State for their letter published in Science magazine last week.  Their piece points out that while conservation efforts on the biodiverse island of Madagascar are highly warranted, these efforts are often justified with misconceived and problematic statistics about the extent of deforestation.  In particular, a figure of 80 or 90% “loss of original forest” is repeatedly cited in the literature, despite it resting on poor or untenable evidence.  In a detailed companion piece published in the edited volume Conservation and Environmental Management in Madagascar, McConnell and Kull outline why this is the case through a detailed review of the remote sensing and other evidence.  They point out that defensible claims can be made about about forest loss since 1950’s air photos, specifically that up to half of the forest area mapped at that time has been lost.  They argue that these figures are dramatic enough that the bigger numbers are not needed, but that the dominance of conservation actors in discourse about the island has led people to favour the larger figures.  For more details and links, see Kull’s blog.