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The Ranomafana TEAM site is located in Ranomafana National Park (RNP) and coordinated through Centre ValBio (Centre de Formation International pour la Valorisation de la Biodiversité) research center, which is located adjacent to RNP on Madagascar’s southeast escarpment. The Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments (ICTE) managed the park until it was transferred to the national park system in 1997. Centre ValBio is managed and run by a consortium of national and international universities and museums and collaborates with various organizations. The Ranomafana TEAM site is a collaboration between Conservation International Madagascar, Centre ValBio, Missouri Botanical Garden, and Madagascar National Parks.
The Ranomafana TEAM site is located within the Ranomafana National Park (ranging from 600 to 1450m in elevation - 47o 18' – 47o 37' E and 21o 02' – 21o 25' S), along the remaining southeastern rainforest of Madagascar. It is a continuous humid tropical forest. Ranomafana National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
Ranomafana National Park contains lowland rain forest, cloud forest, high plateau forest, marshes and sections that were selectively logged before the area was protected. Mount Maharira, in the southern part of the park, has an unusual and rare mountaintop flora and fauna shared only with a site 130 km south (Andringitra National Park). The climate of the region is variable, with rainfall ranging between 2500 and 4000 mm a year and temperatures ranging from 3 – 30° C.
The site consists of primary evergreen forest formed with homogeneous plants located either on mountainous terrain, valleys, and/or slopes. Northern and Southern portions of the TEAM site include the core areas of the national park, which are closed to any human intrusion.
The biological richness of Ranomafana National Park is extremely high. Many taxa are living representatives of lineages usually existing only in the fossil record. High species diversity, long isolation, high endemism, and severe threat make Madagascar’s rainforests a focus of intense scientific and conservation interest. Primate species richness is among the highest in the world, with 12 species in five families (Hapalemur aureus, H. griseus, Prolemur simus, Propithecus edwardsi, Eulemur rufrifrons, E. rubriventer, Varecia variegata, Avahi laniger, Microcebus rufus, Daubentonia madagascariensis, Cheirogaleus major, and Lepilemur microdon), all of which are endemic to Madagascar (Wright, 2005a.). Seven species are diurnal and five are nocturnal. Six of the species are listed as endangered or critically endangered by IUCN.
Land snail biodiversity is also among the highest in the world (Emberton, 1995). As in all of Madagascar, Ranomafana’s bird species richness is rather low. Ranomafana is home to several rare bird species such as the Brown Mesite, Henst Goshawk, Slender-billed Flufftail and the Yellow-bellied Sunbird Asity.
In addition, Ranomafana National Park also contains a high diversity of frogs and reptiles. There are over 125 species of frogs and more than 13 species of chameleons. Most of them are endemics and restricted only to the eastern rainforest of Madagascar. Frogs belong to four families (Hyperoliidae, Microhilidae, Ranidae, and Mantelinidae), among which the family Mantelinidae is endemic to Madagascar. The species Mantela baroni and M. bernhardi are only found within Ranomafana National Park. The largest rare chameleon species, Calumma parsonii, has been spotted only within restricted areas of Ranomafana.
Ranomafana has high plant species diversity with a high proportion of endemics. The TEAM vegetation surveys of one-hectare plots at Ranomafana National Park demonstrate the high diversity of trees and lianas (39 families in the lower elevation of the southern part (Mangevo)). The park has a high density of trees varying from 746 to 1404 stems per hectare within the TEAM vegetation plots.
Ranomafana National Park lies approximately 144 kilometers west of the Indian Ocean on the east-facing escarpment of Madagascar's central high plateau. It is 400 km southeast of the national capital of Antananarivo (approximately 1 full day by car/bus), and 60 km northeast of the provincial capital of Fianarantsoa. The park is bisected by the national highway (RN 25) linking the high plateau to the Indian Ocean coast. The main park entrance is just near Centre ValBio’s research facility along the main road passing through the largest town of Ranomafana (7 km east). Additional tourist circuits are accessible and temporary trails were created for getting into the TEAM sites within the rainforest.