skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00 PM ET on Thursday, May 23 until 2:00 AM ET on Friday, May 24 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Pironon, Samuel"

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. BACKGROUND Madagascar is one of the world’s foremost biodiversity hotspots. Its unique assemblage of plants, animals, and fungi—the majority of which evolved on the island and occur nowhere else—is both diverse and threatened. After human arrival, the island’s entire megafauna became extinct, and large portions of the current flora and fauna may be on track for a similar fate. Conditions for the long-term survival of many Malagasy species are not currently met because of multiple anthropogenic threats. ADVANCES We review the extinction risk and threats to biodiversity in Madagascar, using available international assessment data as well as a machine learning analysis to predict the extinction risks and threats to plant species lacking assessments. Our compilation of global International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessments shows that overexploitation alongside unsustainable agricultural practices affect 62.1 and 56.8% of vertebrate species, respectively, and each affects nearly 90% of all plant species. Other threats have a relatively minor effect today but are expected to increase in coming decades. Because only one-third (4652) of all Malagasy plant species have been formally assessed, we carried out a neural network analysis to predict the putative status and threats for 5887 unassessed species and to evaluate biases in current assessments. The percentage of plant species currently assessed as under threat is probably representative of actual numbers, except in the case of the ferns and lycophytes, where significantly more species are estimated to be threatened. We find that Madagascar is home to a disproportionately high number of Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species. This further highlights the urgency for evidence-based and effective in situ and ex situ conservation. Despite these alarming statistics and trends, we find that 10.4% of Madagascar’s land area is protected and that the network of protected areas (PAs) covers at least part of the range of 97.1% of terrestrial and freshwater vertebrates with known distributions (amphibians, freshwater fishes, reptiles, birds, and mammal species combined) and 67.7% of plant species (for threatened species, the percentages are 97.7% for vertebrates and 79.6% for plants). Complementary to this, ex situ collections hold 18% of vertebrate species and 23% of plant species. Nonetheless, there are still many threatened species that do not occur within PAs and are absent from ex situ collections, including one amphibian, three mammals, and seven reptiles, as well as 559 plants and more yet to be assessed. Based on our updated vegetation map, we find that the current PA network provides good coverage of the major habitats, particularly mangroves, spiny forest, humid forest, and tapia, but subhumid forest and grassland-woodland mosaic have very low areas under protection (5.7 and 1.8% respectively). OUTLOOK Madagascar is among the world’s poorest countries, and its biodiversity is a key resource for the sustainable future and well-being of its citizens. Current threats to Madagascar’s biodiversity are deeply rooted in historical and present social contexts, including widespread inequalities. We therefore propose five opportunities for action to further conservation in a just and equitable way. First, investment in conservation and restoration must be based on evidence and effectiveness and be tailored to meet future challenges through inclusive solutions. Second, expanded biodiversity monitoring, including increased dataset production and availability, is key. Third, improving the effectiveness of existing PAs—for example through community engagement, training, and income opportunities—is more important than creating new ones. Fourth, conservation and restoration should not focus solely on the PA network but should also include the surrounding landscapes and communities. And finally, conservation actions must address the root causes of biodiversity loss, including poverty and food insecurity. In the eyes of much of the world, Madagascar’s biodiversity is a unique global asset that needs saving; in the daily lives of many of the Malagasy people, it is a rapidly diminishing source of the most basic needs for subsistence. Protecting Madagascar’s biodiversity while promoting social development for its people is a matter of the utmost urgency Visual representation of five key opportunities for conserving and restoring Madagascar’s rapidly declining biodiversity identified in this Review. The dashed lines point to representative vegetation types where these recommendations could have tangible effects, but the opportunities are applicable across Madagascar. ILLUSTRATION: INESSA VOET 
    more » « less
  2. BACKGROUND The Republic of Madagascar is home to a unique assemblage of taxa and a diverse set of ecosystems. These high levels of diversity have arisen over millions of years through complex processes of speciation and extinction. Understanding this extraordinary diversity is crucial for highlighting its global importance and guiding urgent conservation efforts. However, despite the detailed knowledge that exists on some taxonomic groups, there are large knowledge gaps that remain to be filled. ADVANCES Our comprehensive analysis of major taxonomic groups in Madagascar summarizes information on the origin and evolution of terrestrial and freshwater biota, current species richness and endemism, and the utilization of this biodiversity by humans. The depth and breadth of Madagascar’s biodiversity—the product of millions of years of evolution in relative isolation —is still being uncovered. We report a recent acceleration in the scientific description of species but many remain relatively unknown, particularly fungi and most invertebrates. DIGITIZATION Digitization efforts are already increasing the resolution of species richness patterns and we highlight the crucial role of field- and collections-based research for advancing biodiversity knowledge in Madagascar. Phylogenetic diversity patterns mirror that of species richness and endemism in most of the analyzed groups. Among the new data presented, our update on plant numbers estimates 11,516 described vascular plant species native to Madagascar, of which 82% are endemic, in addition to 1215 bryophyte species, of which 28% are endemic. Humid forests are highlighted as centers of diversity because of their role as refugia and centers of recent and rapid radiations, but the distinct endemism of other areas such as the grassland-woodland mosaic of the Central Highlands and the spiny forest of the southwest is also important despite lower species richness. Endemism in Malagasy fungi remains poorly known given the lack of data on the total diversity and global distribution of species. However, our analysis has shown that ~75% of the fungal species detected by environmental sequencing have not been reported as occurring outside of Madagascar. Among the 1314 species of native terrestrial and freshwater vertebrates, levels of endemism are extremely high (90% overall)—all native nonflying terrestrial mammals and native amphibians are found nowhere else on Earth; further, 56% of the island’s birds, 81% of freshwater fishes, 95% of mammals, and 98% of reptile species are endemic. Little is known about endemism in insects, but data from the few well-studied groups on the island suggest that it is similarly high. The uses of Malagasy species are many, with much potential for the uncovering of useful traits for food, medicine, and climate mitigation. OUTLOOK Considerable work remains to be done to fully characterize Madagascar’s biodiversity and evolutionary history. The multitudes of known and potential uses of Malagasy species reported here, in conjunction with the inherent value of this unique and biodiverse region, reinforce the importance of conserving this unique biota in the face of major threats such as habitat loss and overexploitation. The gathering and analysis of data on Madagascar’s remarkable biota must continue and accelerate if we are to safeguard this unique and highly threatened subset of Earth’s biodiversity. Emergence and composition of Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity. Madagascar’s biota is the result of over 160 million years of evolution, mostly in geographic isolation, combined with sporadic long distance immigration events and local extinctions. (Left) We show the age of the oldest endemic Malagasy clade for major groups (from bottom to top): arthropods, bony fishes, reptiles, flatworms, birds, amphibians, flowering plants, mammals, non-flowering vascular plants, and mollusks). Humans arrived recently, some 10,000 to 2000 years (top right) and have directly or indirectly caused multiple extinctions (including hippopotamus, elephant birds, giant tortoises, and giant lemurs) and introduced many new species (such as dogs, zebu, rats, African bushpigs, goats, sheep, rice). Endemism is extremely high and unevenly distributed across the island (the heat map depicts Malagasy palm diversity, a group characteristic of the diverse humid forest). Human use of biodiversity is widespread, including 1916 plant species with reported uses. The scientific description of Malagasy biodiversity has accelerated greatly in recent years (bottom right), yet the diversity and evolution of many groups remain practically unknown, and many discoveries await. 
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    To meet the ambitious objectives of biodiversity and climate conventions, the international community requires clarity on how these objectives can be operationalized spatially and how multiple targets can be pursued concurrently. To support goal setting and the implementation of international strategies and action plans, spatial guidance is needed to identify which land areas have the potential to generate the greatest synergies between conserving biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. Here we present results from a joint optimization that minimizes the number of threatened species, maximizes carbon retention and water quality regulation, and ranks terrestrial conservation priorities globally. We found that selecting the top-ranked 30% and 50% of terrestrial land area would conserve respectively 60.7% and 85.3% of the estimated total carbon stock and 66% and 89.8% of all clean water, in addition to meeting conservation targets for 57.9% and 79% of all species considered. Our data and prioritization further suggest that adequately conserving all species considered (vertebrates and plants) would require giving conservation attention to ~70% of the terrestrial land surface. If priority was given to biodiversity only, managing 30% of optimally located land area for conservation may be sufficient to meet conservation targets for 81.3% of the terrestrial plant and vertebrate species considered. Our results provide a global assessment of where land could be optimally managed for conservation. We discuss how such a spatial prioritization framework can support the implementation of the biodiversity and climate conventions. 
    more » « less