Synergy between palaeo-scientists, ecologists and stakeholders for biodiversity conservation in Madagascar workshop

02.03 - 05.03.2022  
Ranomafana, Madagascar
Contact person:
Estelle Razanatsoa, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The PAGES-supported workshop "Synergy between palaeo-scientists, ecologists and stakeholders for biodiversity conservation in Madagascar" will be held from 2-5 March 2022 in Ranomafana, Madagascar.


Centre ValBio, Ranomafana National Park


This is an open workshop for approximately 15-25 participants. The timescale covered is the Holocene.

This workshop aims to help promote palaeoecology in Madagascar by building an interdisciplinary collaboration with ecologists and stakeholders to enhance understanding of landscape history and develop more inclusive strategies for the conservation of the Malagasy biodiversity and ecosystem services.

There is also the potential to conduct this workshop as a virtual and in-person workshop, depending on how the coronavirus situation is at the start of 2022.


Madagascar is classified as a biodiversity hotspot (Myers et al. 2000) with more than 90% of its vascular plants (Schatz 2000), 50% of vertebrates and 98% of birds (Langrand and Wilme 1997) endemic to the island.

However, this richness is threatened by the interaction of anthropogenic and climatic factors. The island is also one of the poorest countries in the world with a population depending on biodiversity for their livelihoods. It is assumed that communities have degraded ecosystems through fire activities and vegetation clearing (Harper et al. 2007) and this has effects on decisions for conservation where, for example, people would be excluded from conservation targets and fire management decisions.

Currently, the local government has undertaken an initiative to reforest 40 000 ha per year in the next five years leading to a change of 0.3% of land cover in Madagascar (Raharinaivo 2019). These initiatives, however, could be misled by the lack of understanding of the landscape history and the drivers of ecosystem changes.

In the last few decades, palaeoecological investigations conducted across the island identified the presence of ancient grasslands, heathlands, and woodlands that are themselves valid conservation targets and possible foci for the restoration of non-forest indigenous vegetation (e.g. Burney 1987a; 1987b; Virah-Sawmy et al. 2010). Such findings should be integrated into decision making that considers landscape history, ecosystem services and livelihoods. These also might help identify areas for forest restoration and suggest appropriate species composition based on past forest composition. For example, the knowledge of the past history of an ecosystem such as in the central highlands could avoid loss of biodiversity through afforestation with non-native species, or the use of afforestation of ancient grassland – forest mosaics (Bond et al. 2008; Vorontsova et al. 2016).

With the growing community of palaeoecologists working on the island, this workshop has an objective to demonstrate the use of palaeoecology to help implement the government reforestation initiatives, improve biodiversity conservation and encourage collaborations between palaeoecologists, ecologists and stakeholders. It will also encourage local, younger generations to pursue the field of palaeoresearch.

This workshop has both environmental and human dimensions:

- Environment: motivate local ecologists, conservationists, and stakeholders to understand the use and importance of palaeoscience in understanding environmental history, interaction, ecological resilience and changes at various spatial and temporal scales.

- Humans: involve decision-makers in the workshop to change their perception of the complex factors that affect biodiversity but not only humans. This would lead to strategies that are more sustainable for conservation and community livelihoods and incite more inclusion of local communities in conservation initiatives. Discussion about the interaction between fire and climate might also emerge.

Key speakers/lecturers

- Associate Professor Lindsey Gillson, University of Cape Town (South Africa)
- Tanya Graham, University of Manchester (UK)
- Andriantsilavo Razafimanantsoa (ECR), University of Cape Town (South Africa)


Details and deadlines will be provided as soon as possible.

Financial support

PAGES has provided some funding for the attendance of early-career researchers and scientists from less-favored countries. Details on how to apply for financial assistance will be provided as soon as possible.


This workshop will be organised in two main sessions including speaker/posters presentation and group discussions. Presentations will focus on the introduction to palaeoecological approaches and its application as well as ecological traits and conservation challenges of the various ecoregions in Madagascar. Summary of the existing and ongoing palaeorecord on the island will be presented in consideration of the gaps and opportunities.

The group discussion will focus on the various ecoregions existing on the island where each group will be composed of a palaeoecologist, an ecologist, conservationists, and stakeholders. A brainstorming of strategies for conservation (including reforestation and restoration) and management planning that takes into consideration the history of the landscape, future research, and project activities per ecoregion will be conducted. Through these activities, we would be able to:

- Demonstrate the importance of palaeorecord for the conservation of the Malagasy biodiversity.
- Identify potential gaps for future collaborations.
- Start drafting future project proposals.
- Establish a booklet summary (hard and online copy) of the workshop with recommendations of conservation approach, restoration and reforestation projects for each ecoregion. The draft will be done during the workshop and will be finalised maximum one month after the workshop.
- Recorded presentations conducted by keynote speakers will be published and shared on the PCU Website and archived with PAGES. If there are possibilities, we envisage conducting a livestream of all presentations.

Outreach event

We are planning to conduct outreach for university students who participated in the workshop and introduce them to palaeoecology by bringing them into the field, and conducting observations under microscopes two days after the workshop, once back in Antananarivo.

Workshop organizers

- Estelle Razanatsoa, University of Cape Town, South Africa
- Andriantsilavo Razafimanantsoa, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Further information

Contact the workshop organizers Estelle Razanatsoa: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Andriantsilavo Razafimanantsoa: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.