The relict rainforests are significant ecologically, maintaining biological process which are vital for the survival of Madagascar’s unique biodiversity. The country’s biodiversity reflects not only its geological history, but also its geographic placement. Madagascar completed its separation from all other land masses sixty to eighty million years ago, therefore the island’s plant and animal life evolved in isolation. The rainforests’ significance lies in their ecological and biological processes, the biodiversity, and the threatened species they support. Several of the species are rare and endangered, particularly primates and lemurs (UNESCO, 2011). The Ecological Uniqueness of the Rainforest’s Plant and Animal Life The Rainforests of the Atsinanana contain globally outstanding biodiversity composed of an exceptionally high proportion of endemic plants and animals.
“The level of endemism within the property is approximately 80 to 90 percent for all groups, and endemic families and genera are common” (UNESCO, 2011). Madagascar ranks as one of the highest in megadiversity, featuring an extraordinarily high number of around 12,000 endemic plant species. The rainforests are globally renowned for their fauna, particularly primates, including “all five families of primates, all endemic lemur families, seven endemic genera of Rodentia, six endemic general of Carnivora, as well as several species of Chiroptera represented” (UNESCO, 2011).
There are 123 species of non-flying mammals in Madagascar, of which 72 are on the IUCN Red list of endangered species, and 78 exist within the property. According to Ward (2010), there are 2598 species of mammals found on the island, with all of the Lemur species considered threatened to extinction. These include the Aye-aye, Bamboo, Black, Dwarf and Indri.
Other unique species include the Flying fox, Fossa, Fanaloka, Tenrec and the Spear-nosed snake. Further, there are 3,000 endemic species of butterfly in Madagascar. The rainforests have provided vital refuge for species during past periods of climate change, and will support the adaptation and survival of species in the event of any future climate change. The Diversity of Life Forms Found in the Rainforests Madagascar is among the seventeen countries which hold about 75% of the world’s species. The island country has sixteen types of natural ecosystems including lowland rainforests to spiny deserts.
Each ecosystem has its own distinctive or locally endemic species assemblages.
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