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Coastal Forests of Northern Mozambique

Along with our Mozambican partners, detailed plant and vegetation surveys were done of coastal dry forests in northern Mozambique. High levels of endemism and numerous new species were discovered. The extent of dry forest was much less than previously thought, which was brought to the attention of the Mozambican authorities, resulting in a number of conservation initiatives.

Dry coastal forests of Northern Mozambique

The coastal forests of Eastern Africa have been recognised as forming an important part of a distinct ecoregion – the Eastern African Coastal Forests Ecoregion ‚Äí stretching from southern Somalia to southern Mozambique. It is considered to be among the top 10 biodiversity hotspots in Africa. The main component is numerous patches of dry forest, many small and often isolated, found within 20–50 km of the coast, which support a particularly high level of species endemism and show a rapid turn-over in species composition along the coast.

Although coastal forests have been comparatively well-studied in Kenya and Tanzania, they are very poorly known in Mozambique. Only a very small area is formally protected in the country, yet pressures on land in the coastal zone for agriculture and oil exploration are increasing rapidly. In order to achieve effective conservation, the distribution, composition and status of all Mozambican coastal forests needs to be assessed.

The Africa Drylands team ran and coordinated the botanical input into an initiative funded and organised through a French NGO, Pro Natura International, and the Paris Natural History Museum. The reconnaissance and two expeditions were undertaken in conjunction with partners from the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (IIAM), in particular the National Herbarium and Forestry Research section. The main objectives were to:

  • Determine the distribution, extent and types of coastal forests in Cabo Delgado Province of north Mozambique.
  • Document species composition through field survey and collecting, comparing this to better-known forests in southern Tanzania.
  • Provide training in the field and at Kew to Mozambican partners.
  • Through the media, raise the public profile of plant and invertebrate biodiversity as well as the conservation significance of coastal forests themselves.

Aerial reconnaissance survey and satellite image interpretation of over 18,000 sq. km in coastal Cabo Delgado was undertaken in early 2008, followed by a large scientific expedition comprising botanists, ecologists, and entomologists to the Quiterajo and Palma–Nhica do Rovuma areas in November 2008. A larger expedition to the same areas was undertaken in November 2009. A workshop in Maputo (May 2011) presented the findings to the Mozambican authorities.

From over 2000 plant collections, a checklist of 740 plant species was produced, including 36 new species and 68 new records for Mozambique. The extent of forest was calculated from remote sensing as around 400 sq. km, significantly less than had previously been suggested, with an estimated loss of around 80 percent over the last 150 years. The conservation importance, and the level of threat, was clearly seen by national authorities, resulting in initiatives through WWF Mozambique and others to develop a full-scale conservation project.

Project partners and collaborators

France

Pro Natura International
Paris Natural History Museum 

Mozambique

Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (National Agricultural and Natural Resources Research Institute, IIAM)

Project team

Herbarium, Library, Art & Archives

Frances Crawford, Iain Darbyshire, David Goyder, Jonathan Timberlake

Science Teams: 
Project Leader: