Students provide insights into East African wildlife
Students funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) have rediscovered a snake species, described two new invertebrate species, and demonstrated that local people directly benefit from conservation management.
The findings resulted from a small grant-funded postgraduate research programme in the Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests of Kenya and Tanzania. The results demonstrate that focused work by students can go a long way in contributing to knowledge for the conservation of biodiversity hotspots.
Previously classified as a single biodiversity hotspot, the Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests of Kenya and Tanzania, running some 900 km along the Kenya-Tanzania coasts, now falls within two recently recognised separate hotspots – the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot, and the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa Hotspot. These correspond to two Endemic Bird Areas: the East African coastal forests, and Tanzania-Malawi Mountains EBAs.
“Postgraduate support programmes such as this one play a vital role” —Hazell Shokellu Thompson, BirdLife’s Regional Director for Africa
The US$ 200,000 programme supported the research aspect of the postgraduate studies of 26 students. Funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), the programme was implemented by the BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat in liaison with two national BirdLife Partners, the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, and NatureKenya.
“Postgraduate support programmes such as this one play a vital role in building the critical mass of researchers that every country needs, in order to develop sustainably while conserving its biodiversity,” said Hazell Shokellu Thompson, BirdLife’s Regional Director for Africa.
Highlights of the research included the rediscovery of the Ornate Shovel Snout Snake Prosymna ornatissima, which had not been recorded in the Uluguru North Forests for over 80 years. An Elephant Shrew observed in the Boni-Dodori forest could be a new species unique to that site. Two new species of plant-inhabiting Tetranychlid mites were described; many of these mites have severe economic impacts on agriculture, so it is important to be able to identify them.
“There is valuable biodiversity data” —John Watkin, Grant Director, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund
“There is valuable biodiversity data”, said John Watkin, Grant Director for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.
The research provided important information for improving connectivity between fragmented habitats, for example, by documenting the significant roles played by primates in forest dynamics, and the distribution of plants through seed dispersal.
The students also investigated links between biodiversity, livelihoods, and ecosystem services including carbon sequestration in agroforestry systems. One project demonstrated that honey yields and quality for communities adjacent to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Kenya, benefit from forest conservation.
In February 2009, the students met at a conference in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), where they presented their work to an audience that also included more than 50 other delegates from a wide range of institutions.
Further guidance and reviews were provided by a Coordination Unit comprised of ICIPE, WWF-EARPO, BirdLife International and TFCG. For more information click here (PDF 148KB), or click to visit the project’s website.
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