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Synergy between palaeo-scientists and stakeholders for biodiversity conservation in Madagascar and its surrounding islands

Online meeting
Contact person
Estelle Razanatsoa
E-Mail address
Working groups
Meeting Category

The PAGES-supported workshop "Synergy between palaeo-scientists and stakeholders for biodiversity conservation in Madagascar and its surrounding islands" this workshop will be organised in collaboration with PAGES DiverseK working group will be held in two phases in 2022, both online and in Ranomafana, Madagascar.

Please note that the second part of this workshop has been postponed. The dates above are just a placeholder. Further information will be communicated as soon as this is available. 



Phase one: Online, 23-24 March 2022
Phase two: Centre ValBio, Ranomafana National Park, October/November 2022 – January 2023

Registration is now open for phase 1.

> Register


This is an open workshop. The timescale covered is the Holocene.

This workshop divided into two phases 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.


The first phase is an online workshop, planned on the 23-24 March 2022 in order to demonstrate the importance and application of palaeoecology in conservation and initiate discussion between palaeoecologists, ecologists and conservationists worldwide particularly in Madagascar and its surrounding islands.

The second part of the workshop will be held face to face as previously planned at Centre Valbio Madagascar for two days but will be conducted in October/November 2022- January 2023 depending on the Covid situation.
The face-to-face meeting will be focusing on a discussion to elaborate conservation questions in Madagascar and its surrounding islands that could be responded through palaeoecological investigations. 

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.

Phase 1: Virtual workshop on the 23-24 March 2022, 13:00-15:00 CET

> Register

The workshop will be divided in two sessions of 2 hours for two days.  Each presentation will be 10 minutes + 5 minutes discussion & questions.

Day 1 (First session online) 23 March 2022
The first day will focus on presentations of some successful cases of contribution of applied palaeoecology to deal with conservation challenges, to demonstrate the application of palaeoecological and its related disciplines worldwide. These will include the following field or topics: 

  • Palaeoecology and its related discipline applied to species, ecosystem and landscape conservation 
  • Palaeoecology and rewilding 
  • Palaeosciences and socio-ecological dynamics
  • Palaeosciences and marine conservation 
  • Palaeoscience and climate change mitigation 

Preliminary program online 23 March 2022

Integrating and applying palaeoecological findings to policy and management at local, regional, national and international scale

Session 1: presentation case studies (13:00-14:30)

13:00-13:15: Welcoming participants and speakers, workshop introduction, housekeeping, program for the two days
13:15-13:30: Professor Simon Haberle, Director of the School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University, Australia ⇒ Case of the Asia Pacific region /CABAH as a model to integrate palaeo and musuems, palaeo and education/schools
13:30-13:45: Doctor Charuta Kalkarni, Independent researcher ⇒ Case of India, fire management and agroforestry
13:45-14:00: Doctor Anneli Ekblom, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History Uppsala University => Case of Mozambique and Southern Africa (Cultural heritage and conservation) 
14:00-14:15: Professor Robert Marchant, University of York, England ⇒ Case of tropical Africa, transdisciplinary approach, conservation/climate change
14:15-14:30: Professor Lindsey Gillson, Deputy Director, Plant Conservation Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa ⇒ Western Cape, South Africa, African region, Biodiversity conservation and restoration
Session 2: Follow up on the presentations, exchange about experience and challenges of collaboration (14:30-15:00)

> Download preliminary program for online sessions

Day 2 (Second online session) 24 March 2022
This second session concentrates more on Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands hotspots. Presentations will focus on challenges of biodiversity conservation in those hotspots and will showcase the emerging palaeodata from the region and their potential application in conservation. 

At the end of the session, a focus group discussion (30mins) will be held mostly to discuss challenges faced by ecologists and stakeholders while collaborating with palaeoscientists. 

Palaeoecological research and application in Madagascar and its surrounding islands and project elaboration

Preliminary program online 24 March 2022

Session 1 Presentations: Palaeoecological research and application in Madagascar and its surrounding islands, 1.5 hours (13:00 -14:35, CET)

13:00-13:05: Short introduction & summary of day 1
13:05-13:20: Professor Jens Zinke, University of Leicester, England (marine conservation) 
13:20-13:35: Doctor Erik de Boer, Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera, Spain, Mascareigns (Indian Ocean islands biodiversity conservation and palaeoecology)
13:35-13:50: Liesa Brosens, KU Leuven, Belgium (Lac Alaotra; wetlands conservation or/and lemur conservation) 
13:50-14:05: Andriantsilavo H.I. Razafimanantsoa, University of Cape Town, South Africa, (Central Highlands, restoration and reforestation, fire management) 
14:05-14:20: Dr. Vincent Montade, ISEM Montpellier, (Montagne d'Ambre and Nosy Be, conservation and relevance of papeodata)
14:20-14:35: OBT Lab members, Pennsylvania State University (SW Madagascar, community inclusion/local development & conservation project)
Session 2: Breakout and closing (14:35-15:30)

14:35-15:15: Discussion and breakout groups: Challenges and opportunities of collaboration between palaeo-scientists and conservation stakeholders 
This session will be based on a focus group discussion (30mn), people will be grouped as palaeoscientists, other fields, conservationists, policymakers. Project elaboration focusing on the case of Indian Ocean islands: have some preliminary discussion in their respective field of work (Research for academic and applied for policy makers and stakeholders). Establish a skeleton of project that would include for e.g. restoration, environmental education, wetlands conservation, and fire management. 

15:15-15:25: Representant of the group will be presenting the results to the whole participants 
15:25-15:30: Closing and guidelines for the face-to-face workshop at the end of the year in Madagascar

> Download preliminary program for online sessions

Phase 2: Face-to-face workshop in Ranomafana, Madagascar (October/November 2022 – January 2023)

Venue: Centre Valbio Madagascar for two days 
Date: October/ November 2022- January 2023 depending on the Covid situation.

This in-person meeting will focus only on academics and stakeholders working in Madagascar and its surroundings islands.
This has been chosen to reduce the number of international travels which might cause a barrier to the face-to-face meeting again.
Participants during the first workshop will follow up on the discussion conducted in March 2022. And in the meantime, conservation managers and stakeholders will be asked to elaborate and gather research questions on their managed site that could be answered through palaeo-investigations but relevant to the local needs. This will be further discussed during the workshop.


> Register

Further 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.

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. To be confirmed. 

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: and Andriantsilavo Razafimanantsoa:

Register for phase 1 here

> Download preliminary program for online sessions 23-24 March 2022