Field Museum researcher co-edits definitive book on Madagascar

December 08, 2003

CHICAGO- For more than a decade, Field Museum's field biologist Steve Goodman, Ph.D., has been documenting Madagascar's rare plants and animals. But these precious plants and animals live in areas of Madagascar that are highly threatened by deforestation and degradation. Dr. Goodman spends more than 10 months a year working in Madagascar, and The Natural History of Madagascar (University of Chicago Press, 2003) is, in part, a result of that dedication.

In The Natural History of Madagascar, co-editors Goodman and Jonathan Benstead provide the most comprehensive, up-to-date synthesis available of this island nation's biological treasures. Contributions by nearly 300 world-renowned experts cover the history of scientific exploration in Madagascar, its geology and soils, climate, forest ecology, human ecology, marine and coastal ecosystems, plants, invertebrates, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Detailed discussions of conservation efforts in Madagascar highlight several successful park reserve programs that could serve as models for other areas. Beautifully illustrated throughout, the book includes over 100 color illustrations, with 50 color photos by nature photographer Harald Schütz, as well as more than 300 black-and-white photographs and line drawings.

Separated from the mainland of Africa for 160 million years, Madagascar has evolved an incredible wealth of biodiversity, with thousands of species that can be found nowhere else on earth. For instance, of its estimated 12,000 plant species, nearly 10,000 are unique to Madagascar. Malagasy animals are just as spectacular, from the islands almost 40 currently recognized species of lemurs--a primate group found only there--to the numerous species of tiny dwarf chameleons, to tenrecs that communicate with each other via ultrasound. With astounding frequency, Dr. Goodman and other scientists discover previously unknown species in Madagascar. But with the same frequency they are also documenting degraded or destroyed ecosystems. This combination has recently led conservation organizations to name Madagascar one of the most important and threatened conservation priorities on the planet.

The Natural History of Madagascar will be the invaluable reference for anyone interested in the Malagasy environment, from biologists and conservationists to policymakers and ecotourists.

The Natural History of Madagascar, 1,709 pages, 144 color plates, 59 halftones, 163 line drawings, and 254 tables. 8 1/2 x 11. Cloth $85.00; ISBN 0-226-30306-3.
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Field Museum

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