South Malagasy spiny forests

Country/Territory Madagascar
Area 46,000 km2
Altitude 0 - 500m
Priority urgent
Habitat loss moderate
Knowledge incomplete

General characteristics

This EBA corresponds to the Southern Domain of the Western Malagasy Region in Madagascar (a biogeographic region recognized by White 1983), where the vegetation is deciduous dry (spiny) forest and thorny scrubland, and the most characteristic plants are the Didiereaceae (an endemic family) and arborescent euphorbias.

The northern (inland) boundary of the EBA has been drawn to include all remaining habitat, largely below 500 m, running southward from Morombe, along the coastal strip to just west of Tolanaro; forest cover is based on satellite imagery of the vegetation taken between 1971 and 1979, these data being simplified and interpreted by Du Puy and Moat (1996) from Faramalala (1988, 1995). The southern (coastal) boundary skirts coastal wetlands that are included in the West Malagasy wetlands (EBA 096), which also intersects the present EBA along rivers.

Restricted-range species

Several species have very small ranges. For example, Monias benschi and Uratelornis chimaera (both in monospecific genera) are very local, being distributed only in the northernmost part of the EBA, along a narrow coastal strip 70 km wide by 200 km long. The recently described Calicalicus rufocarpalis is currently known only from the Toliara region, while Coua verreauxi is only known from the south-west.

Thamnornis chloropetoides and Newtonia archboldi are now both known to occur c.100 km north of the northern limits of this EBA in the West Malagasy dry forests (EBA 093), but the cores of their ranges remain in the present EBA.

Species IUCN Category
Subdesert Mesite (Monias benschi) VU
Running Coua (Coua cursor) LC
Verreaux's Coua (Coua verreauxi) LC
Long-tailed Ground-roller (Uratelornis chimaera) VU
Archbold's Newtonia (Newtonia archboldi) LC
Red-shouldered Vanga (Calicalicus rufocarpalis) VU
Lafresnaye's Vanga (Xenopirostris xenopirostris) LC
Subdesert Brush-warbler (Nesillas lantzii) LC
Thamnornis (Thamnornis chloropetoides) LC
Littoral Rock-thrush (Monticola imerina) LC

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
MG061 Kirindy Mite National Park and extension Madagascar
MG063 Mangoky-Ankazoabo Complex NPA Madagascar
MG064 Mikea Madagascar
MG067 Saint Augustin Forest Madagascar
MG068 Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve Madagascar
MG069 Tsimanampetsotsa National Park Madagascar
MG070 Mahafaly Plateau Forest complex Madagascar
MG073 Andohahela National Park - Section II Madagascar
MG075 Menarandra Forest / Vohindefo NPA Madagascar
MG077 Cape Sainte Marie Special Reserve and extension Madagascar

Threat and conservation

The spiny forest is the most nearly intact of Madagascar's climax vegetation types because it is largely found on poor substrates and/or where the climate is least suited to cultivation. Recent estimates from satellite imagery suggest between 14,000 and 17,000 km2 remaining (Nelson and Horning 1993, Du Puy and Moat 1996).

The principal threat to the region comes from the collection of wood for conversion to charcoal for fuel, particularly near major urban areas (Jenkins 1987, Langrand 1990), but there are also significant problems with clearance for cultivation (mainly maize), degradation through grazing by cattle and goats (of unknown long-term effect), and timber exploitation for commercial construction (A. F. A. Hawkins in litt. 1995). Monias benschi and Uratelornis chimaera are classified as threatened on account of their very restricted ranges, and are also threatened by hunting.

There are four strict nature or special reserves in this EBA, including the Beza-Mahafaly Special Reserve, which gives protection to some restricted-range species, and Lake Tsimanampetsotsa Strict Nature Reserve, which includes an important area of euphorbia forest. Berenty Private Reserve and the forest north of Toliara have also been identified as important sites by Langrand (1990), the latter because of the occurrence of Monias benschi and Uratelornis chimaera. Du Puy and Moat (1996) calculate that only 2% of the remaining deciduous, dry, southern forest and scrubland is well protected, and identify this vegetation type as having the most outstanding need for additional reserves in Madagascar.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: South Malagasy spiny forests. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/03/2021.