Climate change impacts and vegetation response on the island of Madagascar

J. Carter Ingram, Terence P. Dawson

Abstract

The island of Madagascar has been labelled the world's number one conservation ‘hot spot’ because of increasing anthropogenic degradation of its natural habitats, which support a high level of species endemism. However, climatic phenomena may also have a significant impact upon the island's flora and fauna. An analysis of 18 years of monthly satellite images from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) have demonstrated that there is a dynamic pattern in Madagascar's vegetative cover both annually and seasonally throughout 1982–1999. Over interannual time–scales, we show that this vegetation response, calculated using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), has a strong negative correlation with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which can be attributable to drought events and associated wildfires. Global climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of the ENSO phenomenon, resulting in further decline of Madagascar's natural environment.