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Madagascar
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Madagascar

June 19, 2008

Madagascar is featured in this image captured by the MODIS on the Terra satellite on June 3, 2008. This island, located off the coast of Africa was once nearly entirely covered in green vegetation. However, Madagascar has had an estimated 80% of its indigenous forests destroyed, leaving behind the brown terrain you see in this image.

Most of Madagascar's 15.5 million residents live and work on the temperate, mountainous plateau that runs through the center of the island. Over the past century they have cleared the original vegetation on most of the plateau for rice farming using slash and burn techniques. Driven by a need to feed an ever increasing population, the people of Madagascar continue to encroach on the forests that lie along the coasts. Most of what is left of Madagascar's native vegetation can be seen on the right side of the island in dark green on the image. While this vegetation on the east coast of the island is primarily tropical rain forest, the indigenous vegetation on the west coast is dry tropical deciduous forest. The presence of the plateau has given rise to these two distinct ecosystems. In both areas, a number of animals and plants unique to Madagascar are threatened by the deforestation. The most notable of these are the 32 species of lemur that are endemic to the island. Only two percent of the island's wilderness is protected.