We are living in a world with a high demand for living space, a cost paid for by sacrificing parts of our natural capital. Natural ecosystems today are disappearing faster than ever before. Scientists simply do not have the resources to document all organisms in these fading regions before they go extinct. Organisms in these regions include many scientifically unknown species, undisclosed and possibly never encountered by scientists before. We can only guess what lifeforms have been irreversibly lost already. Conservation organizations have a hard time prioritizing nature to protect. Limited resources allow an effective conservation of only a few priority conservation areas. The remaining, also valuable, regions are waiting for a less fortunate future. Additionally a biodiversity knowledge gap creates uncertainty with every decision.
This story also applies to parts of Northern Mozambique. Off limits for a long time due to ongoing civil unrest, the region largely remains terra incognita in its biodiversity. As the situation normalized and the economy is gaining momentum, a growing population is rapidly affecting the natural ecosystems. The deforestation rates of miombo woodland around Lichinga, for example, are messengers for a bad time to come for local natural resources. The question for priority conservation areas in this massive region is on the table. Funded by the CEPF (Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund), RGS (Royal Geographical Society) and WWF (World Wildlife Fund) in collaboration with the Museu De História Natural de Maputo, an expedition was mounted to assess the biodiversity on the Njesi plateau, and evaluate the potential as a KBA (Key Biodiversity Area). Receiving the label of KBA would place the region within the group of globally recognized priority conservation areas that are prioritized in conservation efforts. The expedition was in close collaboration with the Rift Valley Corporation that through the LAGRI conservation initiative strives to a sustainable use of natural resources and protection of selected biodiversity hotspots in a large region north of Lichinga.
Preliminary findings of the expedition are promising. The experience of the Belgian wildlife documentary maker Pim Niesten on the BES (Biodiversity Express Survey) in 2016 to the Njesi plateau in northern Mozambique coordinated by BINCO, can be viewed here.
by MERLIJN JOCQUE
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