The mangrove forest is widespread and of critical importance along the north-western coast of Madagascar but it is increasingly under threat of deforestation as the logs are used in construction and more importantly in this region, charcoal production. In the Mahamavo watershed there are eight species of mangroves that exhibit zonation from sea level to the highest tidal inundation. These trees are salt-tolerant evergreen trees from a number of taxonomic families. A microhabitat analysis both on foot and by boat will be conducted to determine which environmental characteristics are most important in determining zonation. A variety of environmental characteristics including salinity, soil oxygen and carbon dioxide, sulphide, nitrate and phosphorus levels will be measured where these trees occur to look at niche partitioning. A limited reforestation effort over the past several years has indicated that trees in different locations are growing at different rates so it will also be determined if these differences in growth rates correlate with microhabitat composition as well. This analysis will also assist in optimising our efforts in replanting mangrove forests in this area.
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 carrying out long term monitoring surveys in the adjacent wetlands, which have recently been given 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 requires you to walk long distances, and although the terrain is relatively flat you will be walking mostly on sand which can be tiring.
Facilities are basic (tents, bucket showers, long drop toilets). The site has no phone signal or wifi.