Terrain shapes and bedrock
COUNTRYAAH, most of Madagascar consists of a centrally located
highland with a north-south ridge, which lies to the east,
parallel to the coast. The coastal area to the east is
therefore narrow, about 50 km, and bounded to the highlands
by a high and steep slope. The coastline here is strikingly
straight, only with a deeper cut, the Gulf of Antongil in
the north. The coastal plain has large lagoons, which are
connected by a long canal, except at the far south where the
coast is rocky.
The central highlands are located 900–1 500 m above sea
level. and is composed of crystalline rocks such as granite
and gneiss, which formed part of the Gondwana continent;
Madagascar was separated from Africa during the Cretaceous
period. The upland is largely made up of slanted plateau
surfaces to the west. Above them rise three high masses, in
northern Tsaratanana with Madagascar's highest point
Maromokotro (2 876 m above sea level), in the middle of the
volcanic Ankaratram massif with the top Tsiafajavona (2 643
m ash) and in the south granite massif Andringitra with the
top Pic Boby (2 658 m asl).
To the west, the plateau's bedrock surface slopes slowly
under sedimentary rock layers from Mesozoic and Tertiary
times. Here it covers a 100–200 km wide topographic region,
the inner part of which has sharp ridges. There is also a
wider coastal plain with dunes and cliffs. The coastline is
irregular with coral reefs and volcanic islands as well as
estuaries in the north. In this western slope region there
are a number of rivers that deposit large deltas, e.g.
Betsiboka, Mangoky and Onilahy. Rivers in the steep eastern
slope region are short and rich in cases like Maningory and
There are several lakes of volcanic origin, e.g. Itasy on
the western coastal plain and one, Alaotra, on the eastern
slope. The terrestrial soil is mostly composed of laterite
and other red soils. The valleys contain fertile soil that
forms the basis for intensive agriculture.
Madagascar is completely within the tropical climate
zone, but the elevation of the central plateau country means
that it gets a warm-temperate climate with average
temperatures for July at 13 °C and for January at 19 °C.
The area east of this has a tropical rainforest climate of
21–27 °C and with a rainfall of up to 3,700 mm/year due
to orographic reinforcement of the humid southeastern pass.
The western parts have savanna and steppe climate with
rainy season during November – April, when the monsoon gives
2,000 mm in the north, while it falls 350 mm/year in the
Plant-and animal life
Both the flora and fauna of Madagascar are very different
from those on the African continent. Of the vascular plants,
about 85 percent of the species is estimated to be endemic.
The proportion of endemic species is also high among the
animals. They are part of relatively few groups, and many
other widely distributed animal groups are missing. Mammal
groups that are naturally represented in Madagascar are
semi-monkeys, tan rakes, wanderrides, rodents and bats.
Two-thirds of all chameleon species in the world and the
majority of species in the genus lizards live in Madagascar.
However, there are no poisonous snakes.
In Madagascar, seven ecoregions have been identified:
mangrove forest, deciduous dry forest, succulent forest, dry
thorn forest, mountain rainforest, lowland rainforest and
Since humans arrived in Madagascar about 2,000 years ago,
about 90 percent of all nature has disappeared, which means
that most plant and animal species and natural environments
are threatened. This is a process that is still ongoing,
which requires major conservation efforts to guard the great
values that still remain.
Along the west coast, in particular, there are areas of
mangrove forests protected from the northeast monsoon by
Madagascar itself and from the ocean waves by nearby coral
reefs. The mangrove forests capture sediment transported
from land via the rivers, which otherwise threatens coral
reefs and seagrass meadows. The most important areas are
Bombeteka, Mahayamb Bay, Maintirano and Tsiribihina.
Animals such as dugong and nile crocodile prefer to seek
out areas with mangrove forests. In addition, there are a
couple of bird species that are specially adapted to these
environments: Madagascar turtle (Anas bernieri),
Madagascar heron (Ardea humbloti), Madagascaribis (Threskiornis
bernieri) and Madagascar eagle (Haliaeetus
vociferoides), one of the world's rarest rare sack
with. The Madagascar swallow (Glareola ocularis)
and the Madagascar whip (Charadrius thoracicus)
prefer to use the tidal areas around the mangrove forests.
Deciduous dry forest
Most of northwestern Madagascar is dominated by dry,
deciduous forests where many trees lose their leaves during
the dry season May – October. It is one of the world's
richest dry forest systems, with 70 percent of all plants
endemic. From here originate among other things flamboyant,
which is often grown as street trees in tropical countries.
Unfortunately, only about 3 percent of the original nature
Two species of lemurs are confined to these forests - one
species of sifaka (Propithecus tattersalli) and
mangustlemur (Eulemur mongoz). In addition, three
Muslim walls are endemic and only live here. Fossa is the
largest predator, and several species of turtles,
chameleons, geckos and frogs live only here.
No less than 131 of Madagascar's approximately 200
breeding bird species are found in the deciduous dry
forests, such as giant coua (Coua gigas),
green-backed asiti (Philepitta schlegeli),
crocodile fang (Falculea palliata) and
white-throated meadow (Xenopirostris damii). Among
watercourses and ponds are found Madagascar heron (Ardeola
idae), white-winged ibis (Lophotibis cristata)
and Madagascarjacana (Actophilornis albinucha).
In the sea around the island of Nosy Be you will find one
of Madagascar's most valuable marine areas with whale sharks
(November - January), spear dragon, manta and several
species of sharks, including hammer shark. Unfortunately,
many sharks are trapped and killed around Madagascar for the
In addition to the lemurs, Madagascar is often associated
with the tree baobab, which can be over 30 m high and often
appears in pictures from the island. The species belongs in
the succulent forest which forms a transition zone between
the deciduous dry forest and the dry thorn forest. Here
grows a mixture of deciduous trees and shrubs as well as
species with thick, fleshy leaves, so-called succulents.
There are no less than eight different lemur species,
three of which are largely confined to this part of the
island (Phaner pallescens, Lepilemur
ruficaudatus and Eulemur rufifrons). There is
also the world's smallest primate (Microcebus berthae),
which is only found in the Kirindy Milea National Park. The
ecoregion houses several endemic bird species, including
long-tailed ground-blue crow (Uratelornis chimaera).
Madagascar marsh (Circus macrosceles) has one of
its main occurrences.
The farthest south of the ecoregion is dry thorn forest.
The Didiereaceae family with cactus-like plants
with small, thick leaves and thorns makes a special mark on
the short-growing vegetation that rarely exceeds 3–6 m. No
less than 95 percent of the plants are endemic.
The climate is extremely dry with a rain-free period that
can be extended to 9-11 months. This places great demands on
the adaptation of both plants and animals. Three charismatic
lemurs have their only or main occurrence here: cats, siphas
and the weasel machine Lepilemur leucopus. Several
endemic birds are also found, such as light Madagascar
carnivores (Nesillas lantzii), leprechaun (Coua
cursor), verreauxkoua (Coua verreauxi) and
black-tailed hawk (Xenopirostris xenopirostris).
Coast hedges here and there (eg on Nosy Manite) birds
madagaskarpipare, roseate tern, greater crested tern (Sterna
bergii) and lesser crested tern (Sterna bengalensis).
At Lake Erombo in the southeastern part are Madagascar
droppings (Tachybaptus pelzelnii), Madagascar
herons, flamingos and smaller flamingos (Phoenicopterus
minor). The region, like so many other parts of
Madagascar, is threatened by cultivation, livestock
operations and the production of charcoal, although the
threats are not as great here as in other parts of the
Along central Madagascar, a ridge stretches from south to
north, and in areas above 900 m there are mountain
rainforests. July – September is a dry period, while it
rains regularly during the rest of the year (1,500–2,000
Unfortunately, very few areas of original nature remain,
and the remaining are like islands in a landscape dominated
by agriculture. To secure the few remaining areas, several
reserves and five national parks have been set up
(Andohakela, Andringitra, Midongy, Ranomafana and Zahamena –
When humans arrived in Madagascar about 2,000 years ago,
giant giants such as gorillas and elephant birds were still
living here. Today the fauna is extinct, but there are still
over 20 endemic molluscs, at least 25 endemic reptile
species (including several chameleons) and at least 45
endemic mammal species (some of which are also found in the
lowland rainforest along the east coast). For example,
around the Alaotras, live Alaotralemur (Hapalemur
alaotrensis), which is adapted to live on papyrus and
A number of endemic bird species are also available,
including Meller's duck (Anas melleri),
madagaskarbeckasin (Gallinago macrodactyla),
multiple Coots (madagaskarrall Rallus madagascariensis,
madagaskarskogsrall Canirallus kioloides and
madagaskardunrall Sarothrura insularis) and cryptic
singer (Crypto Sylvicola randrianasoloi).
In the lake Alaotra located in the northern part of the
region, the last specimen of alaotra doping (Tachybaptus
rufolavatus) was reported as late as 1982. The species
has since been considered extinct. Madagascar brown duck
(Aythya innotata), which also lived in the lake,
was supposedly extinct in the 1980s, but was rediscovered in
Madagascar's lowland rainforest extends along the entire
eastern coast and from the sea level up to about 800 m
altitude. It is the richest region in Madagascar.
Of the 165 breeding bird species, 42 are endemic, such as
the Madagascar eagle (Eutriorchis astur), the
Madagascar nugget (Tyto soumagnei), the
red-tailed nightcrawler (Gactornis enarratus), the
sunbird asiti (Neodrepanis coruscans), and the
helmvangosta (Eurycer) There are also fifteen
species of lemurs, including örontofsmaki (Allocebus
trichotis), vitkragemaki (Eulemur cinereiceps),
red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer),
gyllenhalvmaki (golden bamboo lemur), diademed
sifaka (Propithecus diadema) and the famous finger
The Masoa Peninsula in the northern part houses the
country's largest national park and larger intact forests.
Along the coast there are coral reefs and during July -
September humpback whales visit sheltered places (for
example the Gulf of Antongli) to feed their young.
Hard Sheet Shrubbery
At over 1,800 m altitude in the Madagascar mountain
range, there are limited areas with hard-leaf bush. The
flora is dominated by species within the families
basket-flowering plants, heather plants, podocarpus plants,
fallow plants and succulents. The ecoregion is recently
separated and therefore lacks detailed information.
Madagascar had 20 national parks in 2010, among them
Isalo in the southwest with, among other things, two species
of lemurs and one species of cyphae, Montagne d'Ambre
furthest to the north with tropical moisture forest and rich
wildlife, and Ranomafana in the southeast with a full twelve
species of semi-apes.
In addition, there were 23 reserves set aside to protect
specific species or biotopes and five strict nature reserves
with a ban on visitors.