Assessing Plant Conservation Priorities in Angola
Angola is a country of extremes, from the hyper-arid Namib desert to the Congolian rainforests of Maiombe. It is a botanically-rich country with nearly 7000 species currently recorded and with one of the highest rates of endemism in tropical Africa. However, most regions are poorly documented biologically and have no formal conservation status. Areas of high importance for biodiversity were identified in the 1970s, but independence from Portugal and the subsequent 27 years of civil war put paid to implementation of the planned protected areas. With Angola now experiencing rapid commercial and industrial expansion and population growth, threats to the rich and varied habitats are emerging.
A new ‘Angolan Protected Area Expansion Strategy’ (APAES) has now been developed by Prof. Brian Huntley (former head of South African National Biodiversity Institute) in collaboration with the Angolan Ministry of Environment, and was approved by the Council of Ministers, the highest decision-making body in Angola, in April 2011. This Strategy outlines 11 areas of high diversity in Angola especially worthy of protection, with all major biomes and geographic regions of the country represented. However, baseline biodiversity assessments are essential in each of the highlighted areas in order to provide support for the case for protection and to provide data which can feed into a conservation and management plan for each site.
Three Kew staff joined the first of these rapid biodiversity assessment teams in April/May 2011, for the remote Lagoa Carumbo region of northeast Angola. A six-day field expedition resulted in over 40 new plant records for Angola and over 10 potentially new species to science as well as a detailed documentation of the vegetation and plant diversity of the region. It is anticipated that Kew will participate in each of the rapid surveys for the remaining regions highlighted in the APAES programme, together with more detailed follow-up survey work in regions of particularly high interest. A biodiversity report will be produced for each region, together with publication of new species, new Angolan records and any discoveries of particular conservation significance.
The APAES programme is seen as an excellent entrance point for potential longer-term involvement in Angola. Although still a fledgling programme, it is hoped that Kew will expand its involvement in this important country to include where possible:
- Development of a database of Angolan botanical records and species data
- Regional plant diversity mapping and analyses
- Taxonomic accounts of plant groups of particular conservation significance within Angola, including groups with high rates of endemism
Due to its recent history, Angola has become somewhat isolated from the global scientific community, and we see training of Angolan botanists and conservationists as a significant element of this project. Repeat visits through the APAES programme will help to strengthen institutional links with this important country for African biodiversity.
Project partners and collaborators
Agostinho Neto University, Luanda
Instituto Superior de Ciencias da Educação, Lubango
Ministério do Ambiente, Angola