Conservation of the Eastern Africa Afromontane Flora
To assess the conservation status of the Afromontane flora in Eastern Africa and provide strategies to conserve threatened species through ex-situ seed banking and species restoration.
The East African Mountains are a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot with many unique and threatened species. The Afromontane flora is found typically above 2000 m above sea level. Lowland montane forests are replaced by bamboo and shrubby heathers as the altitude increases. Above 3500 m an Afroalpine zone is found with many unusual plants adapted to the high altitudes e.g. giant dendrosenecios and lobelias. Many species are endemic to only one or two mountain ranges.
Currently the conservation status of the Afromontane flora in Eastern Africa is unknown. There are few published IUCN conservation assessments for the region but there are serious threats to the flora. Lowland montane forests are at risk from illegal logging, charcoal production and conversion to agricultural lands. The high altitude flora is threatened by climate change and frequent large scale fires.
This project will bring together partners from national herbaria, seed banks, universities and conservation management authorities in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia to deliver science-based strategies which will improve the conservation of the Afromontane flora.
Our main project outputs will be:
1. Online resource of the Afromontane flora
Plant descriptions, distribution maps, herbarium specimen data and images will be available online. We will undertake conservation assessments for the Afromontane flora endemic to Eastern Africa. We will also produce species models to study the effects of future climate change scenarios on threatened species future distributions.
2. Ex-situ seed conservation
We will collect seeds from 300 Afromontane species from at least 3 populations per species, prioritising threatened and endemic species for ex-situ seed conservation. Seeds will be stored in-country and duplicated to the MSBP. We will research the seed longevity of our Afromontane collections as previous studies at the MSBP have shown that seeds of many high altitude species could be short lived in seed banks. This will allow us to use specially adapted seed banking protocols to ensure effective ex-situ seed conservation of these collections.
3. Species restoration
In Kenya we will develop models for best practice for the restoration of Afromontane species in Eastern Africa. Through workshops with regional scientists and stakeholders we will develop and apply criteria to identify priority species for a restoration programme. Five species will be selected and we will undertake studies on all aspects of species restoration, for example, population genetics, population demographic studies, ecological profiling, germination protocols, propagation protocols and field trials.
At the end of the project a report on the conservation status of the Afromontane flora in East Africa will be produced. Conservation strategies will be identified and integrated within protected areas management plans. We will have protocols and procedures for best practice for species recovery of Afromontane species from our research in Kenya which can then be used across East Africa.