Lac Alaotra, Madagascar

Lac Alaotra, Madagascar's largest lake, was the country's rice bowl, responsible for feeding a large part of the island's population. At one time the vast lake was surrounded by tropical forest, but today this has been cleared for farmland, and the hills are now bare and riddled with "lavaka," deep, red, eroded gullies. With rain - the soil left unprotected without forest cover - tons of red earth bleed into the lake, and the lake is fast disappearing. Today the lake has a maximum dry season depth of only two feet (60 cm) and the region can no longer produce enough rice to supply the growing population; Madagascar must now import rice. Locals are rapidly burning the reed beds around the lake to create more rice fields, only resulting in more siltation of the lake. The Alaotra gentle lemur, endemic to these reed beds, is disappearing faster than the lake.