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1 December 2007 Taboos and Forest Governance: Informal Protection of Hot Spot Dry Forest in Southern Madagascar
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In the dry forest of southern Madagascar, a region of global conservation priority, formally protected areas are nearly totally absent. We illustrate how the continued existence of unique forest habitats in the Androy region is directly dependent on informal institutions, taboos, regulating human behavior. Qualitative interviews to map and analyze the social mechanisms underlying forest protection have been combined with vegetation analyses of species diversity and composition. Of 188 forest patches, 93% were classified as protected, and in Southern Androy all remaining forest patches larger than 5 ha were protected. Eight different types of forests, with a gradient of social fencing from open access to almost complete entry prohibitions, were identified. Transgressions were well enforced with strong sanctions of significant economic as well as religious importance. Analyses of species diversity between protected and unprotected forests were complicated because of size differences and access restrictions. However, since, for example, in southern Androy >90% of the total remaining forest cover is protected through taboos, these informal institutions represent an important, and presently the only, mechanism for conservation of the highly endemic forest species. We conclude that social aspects, such as local beliefs and legitimate sanctioning systems, need to be analyzed and incorporated along with biodiversity studies for successful conservation.

Maria Tengö, Kristin Johansson, Fanambinantsoa Rakotondrasoa, Jakob Lundberg, Jean-Aimé Andriamaherilala, Jean-Aimé Rakotoarisoa, and Thomas Elmqvist "Taboos and Forest Governance: Informal Protection of Hot Spot Dry Forest in Southern Madagascar," AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 36(8), 683-691, (1 December 2007).[683:TAFGIP]2.0.CO;2
Received: 25 June 2006; Accepted: 1 June 2007; Published: 1 December 2007

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