April 19, 2012
Confirmed new frog species from Betampona Forest Reserve in the Boophis genus. Photo by: Gonçalo M. Rosa.
Lead author of the paper, Gonçalo M. Rosa, told mongabay.com that the reason why this forest held so many frog species "is still a mystery." He notes that up to 24 of the species in the forest may be endemic, i.e. found no-where else in the world but in tiny Betampona.
"And that's why these numbers are so extraordinary (especially compared with other tropical forests)," Rosa exclaims. "Betampona is also considered a botanical 'hotspot' with 20 of the 100 most endangered Malagasy plants found within its borders!"
Sahaindrana waterfalls in Betampona Forest Reserve. Photo by: Gonçalo M. Rosa.
Found on the eastern coast of Madagascar, Betampona conserves one of the last surviving lowland forests in the country. The forest fragment is so small that it could fit over five times into the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Yet Madagascar's dwindling forest land continues to be under assault by widespread slash-and-burn agriculture, overexploitation, logging and bushmeat hunting, all fueled by widespread poverty, poor governance, and overpopulation. Not just home to frogs, Betampona also harbors eleven lemur species, including the Critically Endangered black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata). In addition, a recent study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science found that Betampona had one of the world's richest semblance of tree and shrub species with researchers cataloguing 244 species in less than one hectare.
But, says Rosa, this biological jewel, less than half the size of Manhattan, is not fully secure.
"Betampona now represents a rainforest island surrounded by degraded areas. The conservation issues facing Betampona are similar to those already quoted for many other forests and massifs such as illegal logging or bushmeat: although we consider the Betampona amphibian fauna to be at risk because of the small size of the reserve and of its isolation from other forests and other amphibian populations. This could lead to a general impoverishment of the amphibian fauna living there, such as observed in other fragmented forests."
Rosa also notes that an alien plant species, guava (Psidium guajava), is providing a new challenge for the reserve. Still, there is hope for the frogs, says Rosa, who calls the reserve "one of the best-managed protected areas in Madagascar."
Confirmed new frog species from Betampona Forest Reserve in the Platypelis genus. Photo by: Gonçalo M. Rosa.
Around 70 percent of Madagascar's species are endemic to the island. Having been separated from the mainland for tens-of-million of years, Madagascar is a massive biological laboratory where species evolved in long-isolation. The island is now home to all of the world's lemurs, half of the world's chameleons including species the size of a fingernail, bizarre tenrecs, and an incredible diversity of frogs, among other wonders.
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Another confirmed new frog species from Betampona Forest Reserve in the Platypelis genus. Photo by: Gonçalo M. Rosa.
New species in the Stumpffia genus. Photo by: Gonçalo M. Rosa.
New species in the Guibemantis genus. Photo by: Gonçalo M. Rosa.
Fontsimavo River in Betampona. Photo by: Gonçalo M. Rosa.
Menavato Mountain in Betampona. Photo by: Gonçalo M. Rosa.
CITATION:Goncalo M. Rosa, Franco Andreone, Angelica Crottini, J. Susanne Hauswaldt, Jean Noel, Nirhy H. Rabibisoa, Miora O. Randriambahiniarime, Rui Rebelo, Christopher J. Raxworthy. The amphibians of the relict Betampona low-elevation rainforest, eastern Madagascar: an application of the integrative taxonomy approach to biodiversity assessments. Biodiversity Conservation. 2012. DOI 10.1007/s10531-012-0262-x.
Photo: World's smallest chameleon discovered in Madagascar
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Baby boom: 18 of the world's rarest duck born
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Cute baby animal photos of the day: twin Malagasy giant jumping rats born at London Zoo
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Innovative conservation: wild silk, endangered species, and poverty in Madagascar
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Scientists create high resolution, 3D maps of forests in Madagascar
(02/15/2012) A team of scientists has created the first high resolution maps of remote forests in Madagascar. The effort, which is written up in the journal Carbon Balance and Management, will help more accurately register the amount of carbon stored in Madagascar's forests, potentially giving the impoverished country access to carbon-based finance under the proposed REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) program.
How lemurs fight climate change
(01/09/2012) Kara Moses may have never become a biologist if not for a coin toss. The coin, which came up heads and decided Moses' direction in college, has led her on a sinuous path from studying lemurs in captivity to environmental writing, and back to lemurs, only this time tracking them in their natural habitat. Her recent research on ruffed lemurs is attracting attention for documenting the seed dispersal capabilities of Critically Endangered ruffed lemurs as well as theorizing connections between Madagascar's lemurs and the carbon storage capacity of its forests. Focusing on the black-and-white ruffed lemur's (Varecia variegata) ecological role as a seed disperser—animals that play a major role in spreading a plant's seeds far-and-wide—Moses suggests that not only do the lemurs disperse key tree species, but they could be instrumental in dispersing big species that store large amounts of carbon.
Cultural shifts in Madagascar drive lemur-killing
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Madagascar tree diversity among the highest worldwide
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