Skip to main content

You are here

Facebook icon
Pinterest icon
Twitter icon

Madagascar GIS

The Kew GIS Unit is working with the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre (KMCC) to develop cutting-edge tools and data resources to drive forward biodiversity research and conservation in Madagascar.

Map of Madagascar's Vegetation and protected areas.

The Madagascar GIS Project is a core activity of the Kew GIS Unit, working with HLAA, the MSBP and KMCC. It started as a component of the Madagascar Biodiversity Project as a pilot study, and quickly demonstrated the great potential of GIS for botanists, specifically where their work includes mapping plant species distributions and correlating these distributions with physical or climatic parameters. Altitudinal range, vegetation, underlying geology and climate can all be mapped as constraints on species distributions with far greater accuracy than can be derived just from herbarium label data. These fundamental data are regularly incorporated into floristic and taxonomic research, but we have also demonstrated that they can be used to accurately predict and map species distributions when there are few collection records.

The Kew GIS Unit published a new and up to date vegetation map for Madagascar, based on satellite data and extensive ground surveys, the Atlas of the vegetation of Madagascar (Moat & Smith, 2007). As well as a printed vegetation map (in the form of a road atlas with 64 pages of maps), we have provided a website for downloading maps and uploading new data. This work is continuing as funds permit and we will add greater resolution to the maps through the website as we acquire new data. In 2010, a major field work expedition was untaken to map and ground-truth the montane heath in Madagascar and the results will be downloadable from the website in 2012. A follow-on project with Conservation International has calculated and will continue to calculate the extent and rate of vegetation change since satellite data became available and this is also available online.

GIS analyses provide scientific arguments and data in an attractive and readily accessible format, and combining specimen data, predictive mapping and the vegetation atlas is proving a powerful and practical tool for identifying key areas and priority species for conservation. A top priority in Madagascar has been to facilitate the delimitation of the Système d'Aires Protégées de Madagascar (SAPM), which currently totals 57,000 km² or 10% of Madagascar’s land surface. We are collaborating with Rebioma (Reseau de la Biodiversité de Madagascar) in making botanical data available for locating further areas for conservation and for research on the patterns of diversity on the island. Among the results of this collaboration is research on the potential impact of climate change on species distribution in Madagascar.

We are continuing to develop new techniques and data, including automation of preliminary IUCN conservation assessments, predictive mapping, ecological profiling and extinction risk modeling. GIS mapping is already helping the MSBP to successfully locate and bank the seeds of some of the rarest and most critically endangered species of the drylands of Madagascar. Recent work with the palms team has successfully demonstrated the application of niche modelling and predictive mapping to finding rare species. The work increased the number of known palm species for Madagascar by 20 to over 200 and extended the known ranges of many poorly known species. We intend to test the techniques for drylands species using the genus Aloe as a model.
In 2012, we will continue building capacity at KMCC for GIS mapping, ecological profiling and remote sensing in support of KMCC programmes covering forest restoration, agroforestry, seed banking, sustainable utilisation and rapid botanical surveys. GIS mapping played a significant part in the delimitation and establishment of the Itremo Massif Protected Area, and will be a key component in the long term monitoring of progress with implementation of the management plan. We also aim to integrate the latest technology into the KMCC workflow, enabling electronic data capture in the field and greater access to global datasets. If funding becomes available we plan to publish a smaller and updated version of the vegetation atlas, with supplementary information on the flora, vegetation and biodiversity conservation, aimed at schools, universities and the general public in Madagascar.

Please see our website ( for more information.

Key publications 2006 - 2011

  • Rakotoarinivo, -M., Razafitsalama, J.L., Baker, W.J. and Dransfield, J. (2010). Analalava – a Palm conservation hotspot in Eastern Madagascar. Palms 54: 141-151.
  • Shapcott, A., Rakotoarinivo, M., Smith, R.J., Lysakova, G., Fay, M.F. and Dransfield, J. (2007). Can we bring Madagascar’s critically endangered palms back from the brink? Genetics, ecology and conservation of the critically endangered palm Beccariophoenix madagascariensis. Botanical Journal of the Linnaean Society 154: 589-608.
  • Moat*, J. & Smith*, P.P. (2007). Atlas of the vegetation of Madagascar / Atlas de la vegetation de Madagascar. London: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 1-124 pp

Project partners and collaborators

FranceMuséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris

Madagascar National Parks (MNP)
Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza (PBZT)

UKEnvironmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI UK)

Conservation International (CI)
Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG)

Project team


Steve Bachman, Susana Baena, Stuart Cable, Justin Moat

Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre

Hélène Ralimanana, Tiana Randriamboavonjy, Solofo Rakotoarisoa, Franck Rakotonasolo, Mijoro Rakotoarinivo, Bakoly Andrianaivoravelona, Landy Rajaovelona, Gaëtan Ratovonirina

Science Teams: 
Project Leader: