, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 523-545

The importance of littoral forest remnants for indigenous bird conservation in southeastern Madagascar

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Abstract

The littoral forests of Madagascar are relatively unexplored ecosystems that are considered seriously threatened by deforestation and habitat fragmentation. We set out to describe the bird communities inhabiting the littoral forest remnants in three different sub-regions of southeastern Madagascar to determine the national importance of these forests for bird conservation. In total, 77 bird species were found inhabiting 14 littoral forest remnants. Of these species, 40 are endemic to Madagascar and a further 21 are endemic to the Indian Ocean sub-region, consisting of Madagascar, the Comoros and the Mascarenes. The matrix habitats (Melaleuca forests, marécage swamp forest, Eucalyptus plantations and Erica grassland) that immediately surround the littoral forests were depauperate of bird species and contained few species that were found within the littoral forests. The geographic location of littoral forest remnants had an important role in determining what bird species occurred within them, with the northern remnants having similar bird communities to nearby humid forest whilst the most southern remnant had a bird community that resembled those of nearby spiny forest habitats. Eleven bird species that have been previously described as being habitat-restricted endemics to either spiny forests or humid forests, were found in littoral forest remnants. These results suggest that these littoral forests may play an important transitional role between the two other major natural habitats (spiny forest and humid forest) of southeastern Madagascar. On this basis we advocate that the littoral forest remnants of southeastern Madagascar should be afforded continuing conservation priority.