Madagascar spiny forests

The Madagascar spiny forests (also known as the Madagascar spiny thickets) is an ecoregion in the southwest of Madagascar. The vegetation type is found on poor substrates with low, erratic winter rainfall. The ecoregion contains an outstanding proportion of endemic plant species and is listed as one of the 200 most important ecological regions in the world; one of the Global 200.

Madagascar spiny forests
Dry bush vegetation on red soil
Spiny forest at Ifaty, featuring various Adansonia (baobab) species, Alluaudia procera (Madagascar ocotillo) and other vegetation
Map showing location of spiny forests in the southwest of Madagascar
BiomeDeserts and xeric shrublands
BordersMadagascar succulent woodlands, Madagascar lowland forests
Area43,400 km2 (16,800 sq mi)
Elevation55–200 metres (180–656 ft)
Coordinates24°54′S 44°12′E / 24.900°S 44.200°E / -24.900; 44.200Coordinates: 24°54′S 44°12′E / 24.900°S 44.200°E / -24.900; 44.200
GeologyLimestone and red sand
Climate typeHot desert climate (BWh)
Soil typessandy
Conservation statuscritical/endangered
Global 200yes


This is the area with the highest level of plant endemism in Madagascar, with 48% of the genera and 95% of the species endemic.[1] Many constituent plants show extreme adaptations to drought. Spiny plants of the endemic subfamily Didiereoideae form a conspicuous component, especially towards the east. They are woody but distantly related to the cacti. The remaining component of the forests is dominated by members of the plant families Burseraceae, Euphorbiaceae, Anacardiaceae and Fabaceae, all of which have representatives elsewhere.[2]


Notable inhabitants of the spiny thickets include the spider tortoise (Pyxis arachnoides) and the radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata), the gecko Ebenavia maintimainty, several lemurs including Verreaux's sifaka, Grandidier's mongoose, and eight endemic birds.[2]


Existing reserves protect a maximum of 3% of the remaining vegetation, including Tsimanampetsotsa National Park, Berenty Reserve, and Beza Mahafaly Reserve. Andohahela National Park offers limited protection through its 'parcel 3' section. Elsewhere the spiny forest habitat is under pressure from human exploitation. The main impacting activities are burning for conversion to grazing land, harvesting for charcoal and firewood, and logging for construction.[2] The Arboretum d'Antsokay is a botanical garden near Toliara dedicated to preserving the flora of the spiny forest.[3]



  1. ^ Elmqvist T, Pyyko ̈nen M, Tengo ̈M, Rakotondrasoa F, Rabakonandrianina E, et al (2007) Patterns of Loss and Regeneration of Tropical DryForest in Madagascar: The Social Institutional Context. PLoS ONE 2(5): e402. doi:10.1371
  2. ^ a b c Crowley, H. (2004). "113 – Madagascar Spiny Thickets". In Burgess, N.; D'Amico Hales, J.; Underwood, E.; et al. (eds.). Terrestrial Ecoregions of Africa and Madagascar: A Conservation Assessment (PDF). World Wildlife Fund Ecoregion Assessments (2nd ed.). Washington D.C.: Island Press. pp. 415–417. ISBN 978-1559633642. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-11-01.
  3. ^ Botanic Gardens Conservation International - Arboretum d'Antsokay

External links and bibliographyEdit

  • For extent, fragmentation and intact sections, see: A refined classification of the primary vegetation of Madagascar based on the underlying geology, Du Puy and Moat, 1996.
  • For dominant plant families, see: Structure and floristic composition of the vegetation in the Réserve Naturelle Intégrale d’Andohahela, Madagascar, Rakotomalaza and Messmer, 1999.
  • "Madagascar spiny thickets". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
  • Madagascar spiny thickets (Encyclopedia of the Earth)

See alsoEdit