Mozambique’s diverse flora supports people and wildlife by providing foods, medicines, materials and habitats as well as protecting clean water supplies, absorbing air pollution and buffering the effects of droughts and floods.
The flora includes over 6200 native and naturalised plants (Hyde et al. 2020), a figure that is continually growing as Mozambique’s plants not yet well documented and species new to science are being published each year. 235 species are endemic (only occurring in Mozambique) while another 300 are near-endemic, being restricted regionally to Mozambique and neighbouring countries (Darbyshire et al 2019).
Three of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots are in Mozambique, areas defined as being exceptionally rich in species while also being under threat, having lost a large proportion of their natural habitat. These include Mozambique’s unique montane habitats and diverse coastal regions.
We do not yet know the full threat status of Mozambique’s flora as less than a quarter of its plant species have been assessed. Sadly, of the species that have been assessed, 17% are under threat of extinction (IUCN 2020).
Mozambique’s National Seed Conservation Programme will help to ensure the long-term conservation of Mozambique’s diverse and valuable plants as well as supporting research to improve our understanding of seed biology and providing seeds for species conservation and habitat restoration.
Starting in 2020, this five-year programme aims to set up a National Seed Bank housing seeds from genetically diverse populations of targeted Mozambican plants with duplicate seed collections housed at the Millennium Seed Bank in the UK. Initial target species include Mozambique’s threatened, endemic, useful plants and crop wild relatives.
Seeds will be collected from sites country-wide including within recognised Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) where the highest numbers of threatened, endemic and useful plants occur.
A new vehicle is funded through the programme enabling access to fieldwork for the team. A seed store will be set up at IIAM in Maputo and fully equipped for cleaning and drying seed for storage. Laboratory equipment will be funded for germination testing and seed biology research.
The programme includes training in Mozambique and the UK, providing career development opportunities for IIAM seed conservation researchers and partners from other Mozambican organizations and Community Groups.
The National Seed Conservation Programme is jointly managed by partners at Mozambique’s Agricultural Research Institute (IIAM) and at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Funding has been generously provided through two international conservation programmes, The Global Tree Seed Bank Programme and the Threatened Biodiversity Hotspots Programme.