April 20, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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SOUTHEAST AFRICA MONTANE ARCHIPELAGO (SEAMA): A HUB OF UNDOCUMENTED BIODIVERSITY

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TAG: GS 3: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT

THE CONTEXT: The South East Africa Montane Archipelago (SEAMA) is a newly recognized ecoregion situated across northern Mozambique and encompassing Mount Mulanje in Malawi, southern Africa’s second-highest mountain.

EXPLANATION:

  • Despite its recent recognition, SEAMA has already revealed itself as a treasure trove of previously undocumented biodiversity, drawing attention from researchers and conservationists alike.
  • A recent study published in Nature Scientific Reports sheds light on the remarkable biodiversity of SEAMA.
  • Through extensive research into the region’s geology and climate, the study unveiled hundreds of previously undescribed species across various taxonomic groups, including plants, vertebrates, and invertebrates.

Surveyed Sites and Species Documentation

  • The study identified at least 30 sites within the core of the SEAMA ecoregion, with nine in Malawi and 21 in Mozambique.
  • These sites, previously unexplored by scientific inquiry, provided critical insights into the region’s rich biodiversity.
  • The documentation includes 127 plant species, 45 vertebrates (including amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals), and 45 invertebrate species.
  • Notably, SEAMA harbors 22 strictly endemic reptile species, with 19 of them dependent on forests, making them highly vulnerable to habitat loss.

Biological Surveys in Mozambique

  • While Mount Mulanje in Malawi has been subject to numerous biological surveys, the mountains in northern Mozambique remained largely unstudied until recent decades.
  • The aftermath of protracted conflicts hindered scientific exploration in the region until the past 20 years.
  • Scientific expeditions in Mozambique uncovered numerous species new to science and highlighted the levels of shared endemism among different sites.

Unique Ecological Characteristics

  • SEAMA exhibits distinct ecological characteristics, including higher annual rainfall and humidity compared to surrounding regions.
  • Mount Mabu, identified as the most extensive mid-elevation rainforest in southern Africa, contributes significantly to the region’s biodiversity.
  • These ecological nuances underscore SEAMA’s global biological importance and justify its recognition as a new ecoregion.

Conservation Challenges and Urgent Need

  • Despite its ecological significance, SEAMA faces severe deforestation threats, primarily driven by slash-and-burn agricultural practices and charcoal production.
  • Since 2000, the ecoregion has experienced a significant loss of primary humid forest cover, highlighting the urgent need for conservation initiatives.
  • Conservation agriculture practices and sustainable livelihood alternatives are essential to mitigate these threats and safeguard SEAMA’s biodiversity.

Ecoregion: An ecoregion is a geographical area characterized by distinct assemblages of plants, animals, and ecological features.

SEAMA:

  • The South East Africa Montane Archipelago (SEAMA) is a recently recognized ecoregion located in southern Africa, spanning across northern Mozambique and incorporating Mount Mulanje in Malawi.
  • SEAMA is distinguished by its mountainous terrain, encompassing diverse habitats such as montane forests, grasslands, and rock faces.
  • Despite its relatively recent recognition, SEAMA has been identified as a hub of biodiversity, hosting numerous species of plants, vertebrates, and invertebrates.

Mount Mabu:

  • Mount Mabu is a mountain in northern Mozambique, famous for its old-growth rain forest.
  • Mount Mabu is approximately 1,700 metres (5,600 feet) high and the forest covers about 7,000 hectares (27 square miles).
  • While well known locally, the Mount Mabu forest and its extremely diverse wildlife were unknown to plant and animal scientists until 2005.
  • There are communities living around Mount Mabu, the closest being Nangaze, Nvava, and Limbue.
  • The mountain plays a crucial role in the lives of the communities, and in the cosmology of the Nangaze leader, Mount Mabu belongs to a kinship network in which Mabu is the oldest brother, Mount Muriba is the youngest brother and River Mugue is the middle sister.

SOURCE: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/africa/southern-africa-s-new-ecoregion-brimming-with-undocumented-life-but-in-urgent-need-of-conservation-95244

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