Health Of Gallery Forests And Their Impact Upon Lemur Catta Populations

Clearly gallery forest is an important habitat for populations of L. catta throughout south and southwestern Madagascar. However, in many unprotected, and even protected, areas, these forests are not stable. In fact, Sussman and Rakotozafy (1994) suggest that the southern gallery forest is one of the most endangered forest types in Madagascar, with grazing and overcutting resulting in narrow fragments along edges of existing rivers and streams. Blumenfeld-Jones et al. (2006) note that the well-protected gallery forest at Berenty is strongly tied to the adjacent Mandrare River, and the shape and life history of this forest follows the contours of the shifting current and past riverbeds. Surrounding sisal fields, which were planted in the nineteenth century, contain large, old, widely spaced tamarind trees, which once were likely part of a riverine forest system. Blumenfeld-Jones et al. (2006) suggest that due to rivers shifting their courses and existing forests nearing the end of their life cycles, efforts to protect these small gallery forest fragments may ultimately fail. However, at Berenty, within 10 years of ending cultivation on the lower riverbank, trees now grow where crops once stood, thus gallery forest regeneration is possible. Blumenfeld-Jones et al. caution, however, that conservation plans must be based on an understanding of natural regeneration processes.

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