Ecological studies in Madagascar have been shaped by three underlying parameters. First is the geography of Madagascar—its 80-million-year isolation, and also the patchy distribution of forests around the island-continent. This geography has fostered baroque radiations of allopatric species. Madagascar's biodiversity is more like an archipelago than either an island or a continent. Each forest, whether wet eastern rainforest, dry western deciduous forest, or the semiarid spiny forest of the south, holds different lemurs, chameleons, butterflies, and other taxa from the next one, even within a similar climate. Combined with the perpetually perilous state of Madagascar's roads, the patchiness means that most scientists pick on a single part of the island in which to work. They tend to return to their intellectual "homes," deepening insight and infrastructure in a series of allopatric research sites.
Dedicated to the memory of Madame Berthe Rakotosamimanana, who has inspired so many prima-tologists to study lemurs.
Alison Jolly • Department of Biology and Environmental Science, University of Sussex, Sussex BN1 9QG, United Kingdom R.W. Sussman • Department of Anthropology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri
The second great influence is the changeable climate. Madagascar's forests have spread and shrunk over the scale of eons and millennia, in pluvials and interplu-vials. The wealth of species evolved as the forest nuclei separated or rejoined. On the smaller timescale of a lemur's or a human's lifetime, Madagascar falls into the top quarter of the world's year-to-year erratic rainfall regimes. It swings from El Niño drought to cyclone-caused flooding. As study sites now persist over decades, ecologists are learning what Malagasy farmers have always known: survival has little to do with averages, everything to do with confronting harsh seasons and catastrophic years (Dewar and Wallis, 1999; Gould et al., 1999; Richard et al., 2002; Wright, 1999).
The third influence is the political history of Madagascar: coastal and highland people, elite and villagers, and the foreigners who have influenced the island-continent. It is at first tempting to write about ecological study as a chronicle of scientific ideas with each question blossoming solely from the ones which went before. However, that would be so narrow as to be actually false. Ecological studies have been inseparably intertwined with the economic possibilities open to people of different backgrounds, with the ideals of foreigners enchanted by the alternate world of Malagasy biodiversity, and with both Malagasy and foreign scientists' commitment to action for conservation. A mere history of scientific ideas would leave out most of the story.
This article is therefore divided into political periods. First, we make a few remarks about colonial and precolonial times. Modern lemur field studies date from 1955 to 1975, from just before Malagasy independence to the end of the First Republic. There was a hiatus at the start of the Second Republic, from 1975 to 1985, a period without research visas and with increasing national poverty. The period of reopening to the West and major foreign aid for biodiversity has lasted from 1985 to 2005. During this last 20 years, the separate research sites have become ongoing projects, and a table of scientists underlines geographic locality (Table 1). Finally, we conclude with a few remarks about changing prospects for the future.
Table 1. Scientists who have done field research on lemurs in Madagascar (PhDs and PhD candidates and above, or published authors, not MSc's and DEAs)
Site Decade Species
Petter, Jean-Jacques Petter-Rousseaux, Arlette Nicoll, Martin Goodman, Steven Garbutt, Nick Mittermeier, Russell Lewis, Edward
50s-80s 50s-80s 70s on 80s on 80s on 80s on 90s on many many many many many many many
Eulemur fulvus mayottensis, E. mongoz
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