Finding the Connections Between Paleoecology, Ethnobotany, and Conservation in Madagascar

David A. Burney


Studying Madagascar’s late prehistoric past can add a useful dimension to ethnobotany research, as it has to conservation efforts. These studies provide evidence that people first arrived about two millennia ago. The plants they brought to Madagascar are predominantly south Asian in origin, including coconut, banana, rice, and hemp, pointing to their probable Indonesian origins. Later
plant additions, such as castor bean, came from Africa and reflect a second wave of human migration. The subsequent
development of indigenous agriculture was affected
by the limitations of climate and soils, and also by the effects of ecological changes that were largely anthropogenic.
Additional information on these remote times can be gleaned from early literature, especially Mediterranean and Islamic references. These types of multidisciplinary investigations, aimed at recovering additional early cultural
and ecological elements, can have the positive effect of developing stronger ties between ecology and culture in Madagascar, perhaps helping to heal the unfortunate rift between conservation and the social sciences currently so evident there.

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Ethnobotany Research and Applications (ISSN 1547-3465) is published online by the Department of Ethnobotany, Institute of Botany, Ilia State University.
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