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Location Malawi, Northern
Central coordinates 33o 51.78' East  11o 54.90' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 160,000 ha
Altitude 1,000 - 1,950m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM) (Affiliate)



Site description The South Viphya Plateau is the second-largest montane complex in Malawi; it is some 90 km long from north to south and 15–20 km wide. It starts about 30 km south-west of the North Viphya Plateau, from which it is separated by a belt of lower-altitude woodland around Mzuzu. Montane conditions prevail above 1,550–1,600 m and the total area above the 1,600 m contour covers some 82,000 ha. There are several peaks between 1,900 and 2,000 m. The eastern escarpment is deeply dissected, almost inaccessible country, whose numerous streams drain into the Luweya river system and Lake Malawi; the Luweya valley, at 900–1,000 m, forms part of the eastern boundary of the reserve. The central high plateau supports an enormous plantation (48,000 ha) of exotic pines, mainly Pinus patula. The pines were planted exclusively over montane grassland, while the patches of evergreen forest were deliberately preserved. As for the high Nyika, there is no evidence that this cold plateau was ever permanently settled. Three main patches of montane rainforest occur: Nthungwa (11°40’S 33°49’E, 108 ha at 1,600–1,800 m), Chamambo (11°50’S 33°50’E, 260 ha at 1,600–1,800 m) and Kawandama (12°01’S 33°52’E, 75 ha at 1,750–1,850 m). Ficalhoa laurifolia and Cryptocarya liebertiana are the most important emergents. Numerous smaller patches are scattered on the plateau and down the eastern slopes, totalling probably over 4,500 ha of montane and mid-altitude forest. Outside forests and plantations, the main vegetation-type is rank montane grassland and shrubland, with also some transition miombo woodland down the eastern escarpment, and a few attractive dambos in drainage channels.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Whyte's Barbet Stactolaema whytii resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Moustached Green Tinkerbird Pogoniulus leucomystax resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Caprimulgus poliocephalus resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Bar-tailed Trogon Apaloderma vittatum resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Fuelleborn's Boubou Laniarius fuelleborni resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Souza's Shrike Lanius souzae resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-tailed Crested-flycatcher Elminia albonotata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rufous-bellied Tit Parus rufiventris resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Tit Parus griseiventris resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea breeding  1999  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Chapin's Apalis Apalis chapini resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Wren-warbler Camaroptera undosa resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Eastern Mountain Greenbul Andropadus nigriceps resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Stripe-cheeked Greenbul Andropadus milanjensis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-streaked Greenbul Phyllastrephus flavostriatus resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Red-capped Crombec Sylvietta ruficapilla resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
African Hill Babbler Pseudoalcippe abyssinica resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Starling Onychognathus tenuirostris resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Orange Ground-thrush Zoothera gurneyi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-chested Alethe Alethe fuelleborni resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi resident  1999  present  A1, A3  Near Threatened 
Olive-flanked Robin-chat Cossypha anomala resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Scrub-robin Erythropygia barbata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Rock-thrush Monticola angolensis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher Dioptrornis fischeri resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Anchieta's Sunbird Anthreptes anchietae resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Double-collared Sunbird Nectarinia manoensis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Olive-bellied Double-collared Sunbird Nectarinia fuelleborni resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bronze Sunbird Nectarinia kilimensis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bertrand's Weaver Ploceus bertrandi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Olive-headed Weaver Ploceus olivaceiceps resident  1999  present  A3  Near Threatened 
Red-faced Crimson-wing Cryptospiza reichenovii resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Swee Waxbill Estrilda melanotis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey-faced Citril Serinus hypostictus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-eared Seedeater Serinus mennelli resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Serinus whytii resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Not Recognised 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
South Viphya Forest Reserve 114,780 is identical to site 114,780  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   99%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
forestry -
water management -

Other biodiversity Vegetation: an undescribed species of Memecylon forest tree has been collected at Nthungwa (and at site MW003). Some 14 species of montane trees and woody shrubs reach their southern limits of distribution on the Viphya (including Entandrophragma excelsum, Ficalhoa laurifolia and Ocotea usambarensis). Mammals: this is the only Malawi locality for the rodent Arvicanthis niloticus. Butterflies: species otherwise confined in Malawi to the lake shore forests include Catuna sikorana and Amauris crawshayi. Four species reach their southern limits: Junonia sinuata, Henotesia ubenica, Uranothauma cuneatum and Phlyaria heritsia.

References Benson and Benson (1977), Dowsett-Lemaire (1989a, b).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: South Viphya Forest Reserve. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/08/2014

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