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Protecting lemurs : Madagascar's forests
Full text sans références: In their Policy Forum "Averting lemur extinctions amid Madagascar's political crisis" (21 February, p. 842), C. Schwitzer and colleagues make an impassioned plea for emergency action to save Madagascar's lemurs. The need for such action is unquestionable, but the authors repeat a tenacious misconception concerning human impact on the island by saying that "only 10 to 20% of Madagascar's original forest cover" remains (p. 842). The evidence for the oft-repeated claim that people have eradicated 80 to 90% of Madagascar's forests is dubious at best. It is not supported by the reference provided by Schwitzer et al.; for that study to be a source for the claim, its estimate of recent forest cover must be used in conjunction with an assumption of near-complete forest cover when humans first arrived. This assumption has long been in doubt, and a decade of palaeoecological investigation has revealed that a variety of nonforest vegetation covers predate humans. We should temper our claims about cumulative historical human impacts on the island accordingly.
deforestation, Madagascar, remote sensing
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