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Monitoring and Managing Biodiversity Loss in South-East Africa's Montane Ecosystems(project completed 2009)

This project looked at a series of isolated mountains across north-central Mozambique and southern Malawi, surveying vegetation, plant and bird species. A number of new species were discovered, and the public profile and conservation importance of these areas was significantly raised with the Mozambique government and internationally, resulting in follow-up conservation projects.
Mt Namuli in northern Mozambique, which supports a number of endemic species, has been visited twice under the project


Lying across south-eastern Africa are a series of old montane massifs of particular biological significance. Many support upland grassland with numerous endemic plants as well as large areas of moist forest, a habitat under increasing threat. In northern Mozambique these montane massifs are virtually unexplored, although they are known to be species-rich with at least 16 endemic plant species. As Mozambique rapidly develops, the country is trying to identify the most significant areas for conservation and to develop the capacity and skills to manage them.

This Kew-led Darwin project brought together a wide range of expertise – the National Agricultural and Natural Resources Research Institute in Mozambique (IIAM), specifically the National Herbarium and Forestry Research departments; the conservation experience of the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT, a Malawian NGO); the survey experience on threatened and endemic plants of Kew’s Millennium Seedbank and the Forestry Research Institute of Malawi (FRIM); and the UK-based taxonomic and survey expertise of the Kew Herbarium for plants and BirdLife International for birds.

The project's purpose was to gather information and develop tools and skills to enable biodiversity management and monitoring across some of these montane ecosystems. Activities included: carrying out field surveys of plants, vegetation and birds; training teams of researchers and fieldworkers from Mozambique and Malawi to gather and utilize data for both management and monitoring; and making recommendations and promoting conservation management to the appropriate national or regional authorities. A series of technical reports were compiled, one for each area, bringing together existing information and assessments.

Five montane massifs were targeted − Mts Namuli, Chiperone, Mabu, Inago and Mchese − all situated in north-central Mozambique or adjacent southern Malawi. They range from Namuli, a raised granite massif (inselberg) with associated plateau, to spectacular “whalebacks” such as Inago rising abruptly from the lowlands. There were six major expeditions − to Mt Chiperone close to the Malawi border; two to the most diverse area, Mt Namuli near Gurué; to an extensive previously-unexplored forest area on Mt Mabu; and to Mchese Mountain in Malawi.


Much international publicity accompanied findings from the Mt Mabu expedition, which discovered a large area of relatively undisturbed medium-altitude moist forest along with new reptile species, and many new plant, butterflies and bird records. This was used to good effect in the final workshop held in Maputo in June 2009, attended by three Mozambican Government ministers and Directors, with the British High Commissioner hosting a reception. A major outcome was the declaration by the Minister of Science and Technology that IIAM, a project partner, would now be the national institution coordinating research into areas of particular biodiversity interest, and that more attention would henceforth be given to biodiversity research. Other outputs include a number of popular articles outlining the importance of these montane areas and the significance of "smaller" biodiversity such as plants, birds and insects, and scientific papers describing new species and records. At least one conservation project is now being planned for Mt Mabu, with possibilities of another for Mt Namuli.


Project duration: 2006-2009


Project partners and collaborators


BirdLife International


Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT)
Forestry Research Institute of Malawi (FRIM)


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

Project funders


Darwin Initiative (Defra)

Annex material