AFRICA


FUELWOOD WORKSHOP

Collection of fuelwood from native trees is having devastating effects on the fragile ecosystems of dry woodland in southern Africa. Several successive drought years have made the problem worse and there is a strong wish in Africa to reverse the process. During a workshop at the Forestry Commission Research Station, Harare (5-7 July, 1994), delegates from Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands and the UK identified the need for research on improving the quality and quantity of fuelwood in the semi-arid natural woodlands of mid-latitudinal southern Africa. There was a clear consensus that the effects of a range of management techniques should be tested at several representative African sites. The workshop organizers, Dr David Cutler and Dr Juliet Prior, are drawing up an application for funding from the European Union to this end. The workshop was jointly sponsored by Glaxo Holdings plc and the European Union.

Above: Over cutting of mopane for domestic use leads to habitat degradation at Chidyamakono, Zimbabwe

Contact: Dr David Cutler

Email: David Cutler


Kew and the National Herbarium & Botanic Gardens of Malawi are to seek funding jointly for research in Malawi. The first proposal is for a field station on the Nyika Plateau at Chelinda to base botanical and ecological surveys.

Contact: Dr Dick Brummitt

Email: Dick Brummitt


AETFAT

The theme of the XIVth Congress of the Association for the Taxonomic Study of the Flora of Tropical Africa (AETFAT), hosted by Wageningen Agricultural College, was 'Biodiversity of African Plants'. Almost half the 220 delegates were from Africa, a higher proportion than of any previous European meeting. Twenty three delegates were from Kew, including Prof. Gren Lucas (Keeper, Herbarium) who gave the keynote address on strategic planning of Floras and databases for tropical Africa. The main part of the meeting was on lowland rain forest, savannas and arid regions, and informal discussions were valuable for formulating ideas for future work. Kew's contingent made considerable input into a symposium on generic delimitation in flowering plants. The next congress will be hosted at the University of Zimbabwe.

Contact: Prof. Gren Lucas

Email: Gren Lucas


Scientific Exchanges Aid Flora

The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) of the World Bank is funding scientific exchange visits between Kew and the National Museums of Kenya as part of its programme for the 'Institutional Support for the Protection of East African Biodiversity'. Two Kenyan botanists visited Kew this summer: Abraham Muasya worked on Fuirena and related genera of Cyperaceae with Dr David Simpson, and Patrick Masinde worked on Asclepiadaceae (particularly Ceropegia) with David Goyder. The Kew botanists will soon make return visit s to Nairobi and others will participate in the scheme over the next couple of years. The taxonomic studies achieved will contribute to the Flora of Tropical East Africa and, as envisaged by the GEF project, give it an important new impetus. Patrick has already helped the Flora's editor by assessing material in the Nairobi Herbarium.

Above: Patrick Masinde (left) and Abraham Muasya

Contact: Dr Roger Polhill

Email: Roger Polhill


African Pipeworts

The Leverhulme Trust has granted 61,000 for Kew to undertake a two-year taxonomic study of Eriocaulaceae (pipeworts) for the flora of Tropical East Africa and Flora Zambesiaca. Sylvia Philips will undertake the study; she has already prepared an account of the family for the Flora of Ceylon. Pipeworts occur mostly in damp places and their variability has led to considerable taxonomic confusion. Species identification depends on the complexities of the tiny flowers, the profusion of structures in the flower heads, and fine patterning on the seeds. The project will in volve some fieldwork in East Africa and collaboration with Prof. Thomas Stutzel (an expert on the family) in Germany. It will contribute to research on wetland ecology and conservation in tropical Africa.

(Contact: Sylvia Phillips

Email: Sylvia Phillips


Clues to Carnivory

DNA analysis of the curious carnivorous plant from West Africa, Triphyophyllum peltatum (Diocophyllaceae), has placed it near to Droseraceae and Nepenthaceae. The juvenile plant of T. peltatum forms a rosette of fly-paper traps, similar to Drosera. However, the mature plant is a liana, like Nepenthes, but without traps. Leaf tissue from the botanic garden in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (sent by Prof. Laurent Ake Assi), allowed Dr Mark Chase to sequence the rbcL gene. Previous studies by Mark and co-workers demonstrated that Nepenthaceae and Droseraceae are closely related. The new results provide taxonomic support to the view that Drosera and Nepenthes represent fixations of juvenile and adult phases of a Triphyophyllum-like ancestor.

Contact Dr: Mark Chase

Email: Mark Chase


THE MOUNT CAMEROON PROJECT

Above: Forest in the Etinde Reserve. Mt Cameroon contains 50 strictly endemic and 50 near endemic species.

The ODA and the Government of Cameroon approved, in August, another three years' funding for the Mount Cameroon Project. Mt Cameroon is a centre of plant diversity in an area with possibly the richest tropical rain forest in Africa. The Project, based on the Limbe Botanic Garden, was set up in 1988 with the advice of Kew botanist Nigel Hepper to protect two areas of forest: the 300 square kilometer Etinde Reserve on the main massif and the 36km2 Mabeta-Moliwe Reserve in the eastern foothills.

During the first term of the Project, Kew advised on the management of the Botanic Garden and helped undertake botanical inventories in the forests (with funding from ODA and Earthwatch). About 9,800 specimens were gathered in a series of four inventories; in the first, about one in 70 fertile collections were species new to science. Over 50 new species have been discovered so far, with specimen identification still incomplete. Stuart Cable is assisting with the naming on a one-year ODA contract. Kew has also trained several Cameroonian Project staff; for example, the Project Director, Nouhou Ndam, worked at Kew from 1989-90, and this summer Christopher Faminyam and Joseph Nkefor attended the Botanic Garden Management and Plant Conservation Technique courses.

Above: New species of Impatiens from Etinde.

The Project's next phase will be more broadly based and operate alongside long-term GTZ (German Overseas Aid) support for conservation work. Parallel support from GEF is likely to be forthcoming. The prospect is for a unified project that will include the whole mountain.

Contact: Dr Martin Cheek

Email: Martin Cheek


Kew has prepared a $450,000 contract for the GEF Cameroon Biodiversity & Conservation Management Project, administered by the World Bank. The grant will help the National Herbarium of Cameroon to maintain its collections and assist with field surveys and the publication of Flore du Cameroun. The Mount Cameroon Project is also expected to benefit from this GEF Programme.

Contact: Dr Roger Polhill

Email: Roger Polhill


DARWIN INITIATIVE PROJECTS

Forest Regeneration: Mount Cameroon

This three-year project in Cameroon started in March and is studying regeneration both in lowland forest after small-scale timber extraction, and on abandoned fallow farmland. The project will also produce an identification guide to the principal forest seedlings. Nouhou Ndam (Mount Cameroon Project), Dr John Healey (Univ. North Wales at Bangor) and Dr Martin Cheek (Kew) are the principal investigators, and Penny Fraser has been appointed as a full-time research officer, working with Nouhou and local assistants at the Mount Cameroon Project, Limbe. A Land-Rover and metering equipment have been purchased and Nouhou plans to write up part of the work for a PhD.

Rheophyte Survey: Ghana

Above: Collecting rheophytes

Rheophytes are plants adapted to flowing water. Some tropical plant families, such as Podostemaceae, are obligate rheophytes often with highly localized species. This project will examine the correlation between rheophyte diversity, water quality and forested/deforested areas in Ghana. The researchers are Gabriel Ameka and James Adamoko (Univ. Ghana), K.A.A. 'Diggy' De Graft-Johnson (Ghana Inst. Aquatic Biology, Accra), Dr Mike Swaine (Univ. Aberdeen) and Dr Martin Cheek (Kew). A Land-Rover and boat have been acquired and fieldwork started in April. The project plans to produce a guide to Ghanaian rheophytes.

Contact: Dr Martin Cheek

Email: Martin Cheek


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