Republic of Madagascar (Madagascar) is the fourth largest island country in the world after Greenland, Borneo and New Guinea which is 226,917 square miles and is located in the African continent. It is situated in the Indian Ocean about 400 kilometres east of continental country of Mozambique with the total population of 24.89 million updated in 2016. Madagascar is said to be the most Asian nation in African continent because most of the citizens of Madagascar are immigrants and sailors of Indonesia, Malay Peninsula, other parts of Southeast Asia, Pacific Island and Africa as well. For the people of Madagascar, rice is seen as a staple food. The island of Madagascar gains its full independence as a Republic State of Madagascar from French on June 26, 1960 under the leadership of Philibert Tsiranana. It is divided into three regions that run north and south along the length of the island. The eastern side, western zone and southern end. Madagascar Island is rich in biodiversity and tropical rainforests. It is also a home of thousands of plants, animal spices, mineral resources, physical environmental features and or landform features like waterfalls, mountains, rivers and seas, plateaus, reefs, beaches, grasslands, parks and deserts. These features have direct impacts on the types of climates of the country and influence its citizens lifestyles.
Different countries in the world have different types of climates depending on the geographical location, where that country is located and different types of landform features and vegetations they have and the wind directions. Climate simply refers to the general weather conditions that is found and experienced in a particular area. The Republic of Madagascar, (Madagascar) being an island nation has a diverse climate. Its climate is mainly dominated by monsoon and southeast trade wind that flows out of the Indian Ocean causing the fluctuations in the temperature level affects the distribution of the rainfall in the region. The island of Madagascar possesses varied relief. The eastern part of Madagascar is mostly dominated by chain of mountains while the western part is dominated partly by sloping relief. Of this fact, the island of Madagascar is not mostly plain therefore the orography has a significant importance on climatology and the amount of regional rainfall. This structure of orographic representation affects the monsoon and southeast trade winds by forcing the winds coming from eastern direction to rise up. When the wind coming from eastern direction rises, it often leads directly to precipitation (rainfall). This explanation simply means that the amount of rainfalls received by Madagascar depend upon the directions of winds, relief and the type of landscaping. The amount of rainfall is high in eastern zone than the other zones while the drought is dominant in southern part of the country.
The climate of Madagascar is also determined by the elevation which is the distance from the sea level, altitude, the height above the sea level and position relative to the dominant wind which are the trade winds and monsoons as mentioned above. According to T.A. Arivelo and Professor A.Ratiarison, since rainfall is dominant in summer season or hot wet humid climates starting from the month of November to April, the average level of precipitation (rainfalls) received by different parts of the country determined by landscaping and wind directions is distributed accordingly. The places located in the eastern part of the country receive more rainfalls than other parts of the country which is at an annual average precipitation of 1800mm or more. The annual average precipitation of those places located on the higher plateau rises from 1400mm to 1500mm while the annual average precipitation of those places located in the western region is 1400. This simply means that those places located in the western region and higher plateau areas are much drier than those places located in the eastern territory. During the cold sunny season, during the month of November and April, the west part faces drought while the annual average precipitation level of those places located in the Eastern and northern higher plateau region decreases to 400mm and 300mm respectively.
The part that faces Mozambique on the western end of the island has a savannah type of grassland because of the increase in temperature that is rising. The exterior parts of the country including the eastern part that faces the Indian Ocean and the northern end has a tropical humid climate which is very hot relative to the decrease in altitude and the distance from the sea level. Towards the interior parts of the island, the altitude and the distance from the sea level are relatively high because of the various landform features like mountain ranges that decrease the temperature. On a central plateau at the altitude of 1200 metres where Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar is located, the average annual temperature that is said to be at the equilibrium or normal level is 19 degrees centigrade with a relatively comfortable climate. The higher the altitude, the lower the temperature and the lower the altitude, the temperature will rise. Therefore based on the fact mentioned above, it’s obvious to identify which part of the country is expected to be hot wet humid and which parts of the country are expected to be cold and drier. That is the places located near or below the coast lines and on a flatland valleys are near the sea are very hot and receives a constant amount of precipitation throughout the year. For those places located on a higher plateau and mountainous regions towards the interior and northern zone of the country are very cold and received at least constant amount of sunlight throughout the year while the amount of average annual precipitation fluctuates.
Since it is located south of the latitude line (equator), its seasons are opposite of United States and other countries located in the northern hemisphere. Madagascar has a tropical type of climate with regional variation and two distinct seasons. A hot and wet rainy season from November to April (summer) with less rainfall received between September and October. The rainfall is dominant all around the year in the eastern region. During the hot rainy season, the average annual temperatures are between 23 and 27 degree Celsius. In the cold dry (winter) season, July is the coldest month with the temperature ranging from 50 to 78 degrees, and it starts from May to October. The hot and cold type of climate does not only depend on the elevation and altitude but also depend on the land and sea breezes. Interior areas of the country produced a cold land breeze which sinks into the sea and the parts of the country located near the coast produces night hot breezes which rises from the sea.
Vegetation or the vegetation cover is one of the natural features that make the island of Madagascar more beautiful and the eye catching site that attracts many tourists and other interested people to explore. The word vegetation simply refers to the flora or plant species in general found in a given particular area. Since the island of Madagascar is separated climatically and geographically into more regions or zones because of the different types of climates and weather patterns experienced in different locations of the country by vegetation cover map of Faramalala, it is rich with different types of flora or plant species. The island of Madagascar consists of above twelve thousand (12,000) different types of species including that of vascular and non-vascular, different forests types, grassland plants and smaller species of vegetations like fungi and mosses and agricultural vegetations like paddy rice farms and vanilla. The vascular plant simply refers to those of the land plants that have lignified tissues and throughout its plant life where it can conduct water and minerals. These different types of vegetation plays an important roles too for the survival of its citizens in many different ways like recycling of oxygen, contribution towards weather and climates etc.
The international scientific and conservation community has recognised the island of Madagascar as one the richest country in the world in terms of biodiversity, endemism and wide range of habitats. The most commonly visible and main types of vegetation found in most parts of the island especially on both the higher elevations and sometimes on lower elevation regions are the different types of rainforests including dense evergreen forests and deciduous forests. The eastern rainforest covers more than half of the country’s forests extending widely towards the mountains and central highlands from the coast and towards north and south. The height of forest is between 25 and 30 metres in height. It is made up of mixture of more than 150 species mixed together. Towards the north and the coast, the forest is very wet and richer because of the amount of rainfalls. Into the eastern part of Madagascar, the dense ever green forest is dominant with a canopy exceeding 30 metres occurring at a lower elevation like in Baie d’Antongil area. The height of the dense evergreen forest canopy depends on the elevation level. It is said to fluctuate in the areas of higher elevation level like in Ranomafana National park where elevation level is high at about 1000 metres the closed canopy of the same type of forest (dense evergreen forest) reaches up to 20-25 metres in height. Transition occurs to thicket that is shorter in stature like that in Marojejy Massif area of northern Madagascar where elevation level is around 1800 metres even at a higher elevation.
The coastal forest covers fairly smaller distance of few hundred miles and extending some kilometres wide on the sand relatively 10 metres in latitude containing many species that are found near the sea, swamps and rivers. The central hills and cliffs forest containing many native plant species Afzelia bijuga and trachylobium verruscosum and intensive cropping spices like coffee, banana and vanilla on clay soil stretches from the low valleys towards the higher altitude at an average of 800 metres. The mountainous or highlands forest containing some plant spices like well-developed moss and lichen woodland slightly differs from that of coastal forest and cliff or hill forest in the presence of upper storey that forms a high forest about 20 to 25 metres tall.
According to the histogram showing the areas of southern end of Madagascar Island, the primary vegetation dominant in this region is the deciduous dry southern forest covering most parts of the region.
On a smaller scale, the island is filled with approximately more than 10,000 native higher plant species where 90 percent of them are claimed found only in Madagascar. The endemic includes five unique plant families which includes baobab trees or the traveller palm. When comparing Britain and Madagascar by international scientific conservation community whole across the island, Madagascar is about 2.5 times large as Britain in term of biodiversity particularly plant species. Also as one the floristically unique country in the world, it has approximately 11,000 species of vascular plants including five endemic families which are Asteropeiaceae, Barbeuiaceae, physenaceae, Sarcolaenaceae and Sphaerosepalaceae where 83 percent of them are found in the island. Ferns and lychophytes have 272 describe species in the island, trees and shrubs estimated to be endemic accumulates to 96 percent of the overall. The basal group of the flowering plants are said to account for 320 spices and is about 94 percent of them were epidemic which includes Annonaceae, Lauraceae, Monimiaceae and Myristicaceae containing mainly shrubs, lianas and trees and the predominantly of the family of Piperaceae. The most species that account for the Madagascar plant diversity come from the families of Fabaceae, Rubiaceae, Asteraceae, Acanthaceae, Helichrysum, Euphorbiaceae, Malvaceae, Apocynaceae, hypoestes and Melastomataceae.
Although Madagascar is famous for its richest native vegetation and or biodiversity that made the country beautiful and tourists attracting sites with different types of flora/plant spices, today some of those unique plant species are easily dyeing out and are at their final stage of extinction because of some natural causes and man made causes. In the past few years, the island of Madagascar has been hit by the natural disasters like cyclone and storm which causes great destructions to both the man-made environment and the physical environment. During these times, some plant species where destroyed which will normally take some time to restore. In addition, the introduction of large scale farming, mining, loggings and other commercial activities also contributes heavily towards the decrease and extinction of the Madagascar’s different plant species. When mining operations for minerals and logging operations for timber took place, clearance of natural resources in search of gold and other valuable minerals and mass logging of forests for timbers endangered many plant lives. When the large scale production for business purposes was introduced, more forests and grasslands were cleared. When they cleared those areas, the number of species existing in these areas started to decrease and some started to reach their extinction level. When mass production increases, new plants species for profit purposes were introduced into the environment. This includes the cash crops like coffee, banana, paddy rice farms, vanilla and many more as a replacement. However, the introduction of these new plant species and environmental hazard practices for profit and developments are now putting the natural vegetation of the island of Madagascar’s into red zone.