Trees in tropical forests are fundamental to key ecosystem processes such as primary production and evapotranspiration which can be measured by satellites. In Mariarano there is considerable spatial variability in these functions, as well as temporal variability from year to year. Some variation may be explained by abiotic factors such as soils, relief or landscape configuration. However, what is the relationship between tree biodiversity and ecosystem function? In this project, you would work with expert botanists to contribute to long-term monitoring of trees in 20m botanical plots. You might want to test hypotheses relating to species diversity, or you could also use our plant trait datasets to also calculate trait diversity metrics for forest plots. You may also wish to use hyperspectral remote sensing data to investigate the relationship between biodiversity and spectral diversity.
Madagascar boasts some of the most spectacular biodiversity in the world: lemurs, tenrecs, baobabs and over half of all known chameleon species. Much of this biodiversity is endemic. The Operation Wallacea surveys are completing research on the dry forests and associated wetlands of Mahamavo in the northwest of Madagascar.
Madagascar has declared 17% of its land as protected areas, but much of this land is already severely degraded, so the actual area of land under protection is much smaller. An alternative approach to assigning protected area status and prohibiting usage, is to develop community managed areas such as Mahamavo, where there is a mosaic of protected and managed areas. DTZ, the German Technical Support Agency has established a series of community managed forests in the Mahamavo area that appear to be successful and may form the basis for conservation and improving livelihoods in other parts of Madagascar. The Opwall teams here are monitoring how the forest structure and biodiversity in these community managed forests are changing over time to identify whether this management strategy can provide a viable alternative to national parks in terms of protecting biodiversity.
The dry forests around Mahamavo have exceptional diversity with two species of diurnal lemur and another five to six species of nocturnal lemurs, two spectacular species of chameleons, three known species of leaf-tailed geckos, and many endemic birds. In addition to the forest work, the Opwall teams are also documenting the biodiversity value of the adjacent wetlands with a view to getting this area upgraded to Ramsar status (a Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated of international importance under the Ramsar Convention).
In Madagascar it is the dry season so it is hot during the day (temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius) with extremely little chance of rain. During the evenings the temperature does drop to around 18 degrees Celsius with occasional cold spells getting as low as 14 degrees Celsius.
Fitness level required
Moderate. This project does not require walking long distances but if you wish to part-take in other surveys they can be long distances, and although the terrain is relatively flat you will be walking mostly on sand.
Facilities are basic (tents, bucket showers, long drop toilets). The site has no phone signal or wifi.