Geography And Climate

Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, rifted from Africa more than 150 million years ago, and has been isolated in its present position for over 88 million years (Krause et al., 1997). This location with the great expanse of ocean stretching to Australia, leaves Madagascar vulnerable to frequent annual cyclones from the east (Donque, 1975, Ganzhorn, 1995). The combination of ENSO (El NiƱo) cycles of drought and excess precipitation and these severe cyclones results in unpredictable weather patterns (Wright, 1999). Annual rainfall can vary tenfold across primate habitats with over 5 m in the Masoala (Vasey, 2004) to less than 500 mm in Berenty (Jolly, 1966). Annual variation in total rainfall even in one site can range from 1700 to 4300 mm (Wright and Andriamihaja, 2002). Severe droughts occur approximately once a decade (Richard et al., 2002). The fact that a fifth of Madagascar forest lies south of the Tropic of Capricorn results in fluctuations between hot and cold maximum and minimum temperatures. In addition, there is a lack of large tracts of lowland humid forests, compared to other continents (Goodman and Ganzhorn, 2004).

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