Support trees in vanilla agroforests of Madagascar: diversity, composition and origin

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Springer Nature
Trees in agroforestry systems provide multiple ecological and economic functions. Smallholder vanilla agroforests include shade trees common across agroforestry systems, and small-statured support trees carrying the vanilla vine. Support trees have received little scientific attention so far. The objectives of our study were to assess the diversity, composition and geographic origin of support trees in vanilla agroforestry systems of north-eastern Madagascar. The region is a global biodiversity hotspot, has been undergoing a rapid land-use change and produces a large share of the globally traded vanilla spice. The studied vanilla agroforests differed in land-use history: established either directly inside forest (forest-derived) or on land previously used for slash-and-burn agriculture (fallow-derived). Among the support trees, we found 122 species of which 25% were endemic to Madagascar. The species richness per plot was four times higher in forest-derived than in fallow-derived vanilla agroforests. The species distribution was particularly uneven in fallow-derived vanilla agroforests with one species (Jatropha curcas) comprising 52% of all individuals. In forest-derived vanilla agroforests, 44% of all trees were native or endemic to Madagascar, whereas in fallow-derived vanilla agroforests only 11% were native or endemic. We conclude that there is a considerable diversity among support trees in Malagasy vanilla agroforestry. The support tree diversity is strongly affected by land-use history. Fallow-derived vanilla agroforests currently have a comparatively low species richness, yet they can play an important role in land rehabilitation, and more emphasis on growing native and endemic tree species would contribute to aligning production with conservation goals.
Acknowledgements: We are thankful to agroforest owners, chef de fokontany (village authorities) and the village communities for receiving us and providing us access to their vanilla agroforests. Special thanks to the local tree specialist Jean Chrysostome Bevao from Madagascar National Parcs (MNP) and the tree expert Patrice Antilahimena from Missouri Botanical Garden Antananarivo, for supporting us with the tree species identification. We collected data under the research permit N°18/18/MEEF/SG/DGF/DSAP/SCB.Re granted by the Ministry for Water, Ecology and Forest (MEEF), Antananarivo, Madagascar. We thank MNP and MEEF for the collaboration. Our work was financially supported by the ‘Niedersächsisches Vorab’ of ‘Volkswagen Foundation’ as part of the research project ‘Diversity Turn in Land Use Science’ (Grant number 11-76251-99-35/13 (ZN3119)). MRS was supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) within the ‘Partnerships for Supporting Biodiversity in Developing Countries’ initiative (Project Nr. 57449386). © The Author(s) 2022. This article is published with open access at and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License - . The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Agroforestry Systems, 2022, available online at: . Keywords: biodiversity; endemism; land-use history; native trees; smallholder agroforestry; tutor trees; Madagascar.
Osewold, J., Korol, Y., Osen, K., Soazafy, M. R., Rabemanantsoa, T., Martin, D. A., Wurz, A., & Hölscher, D. (2022). Support trees in vanilla agroforests of Madagascar: diversity, composition and origin. Agroforestry Systems, 96, 717–730.