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Fieldwork on priority sites to identify and map coastal and marine Key Biodiversity Areas in Mozambique.

7th December 2023

In 2021, the Ministry of Land and Environment (MTA), in partnership with WCS, officially launched 29 Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) in Mozambique. In this process, an additional 15 areas, including Pemba Bay, Memba-Mossuril, showed potential to become KBAs.

Exploration of undocumented system of pools and submerged caves - the "Blue Holes"

The Blue holes of Nacala/Mossuril (Photo credit: Erwan Sola- WCS-Mozambique)

Fieldwork was conducted with the aim to i) map all the entrances and underground extensions of the cave system ii) identify existing species and possible new species to science that could potentially trigger a KBA. The findings show that this area comprises a system made of at least 20 pools, with some being interconnected by underwater caves. The pools (also referred to as “blue holes”) are located from 200 m to 2,000 m from the coastline and surrounded by dense coastal forest. Some of the caves are completely submerged while others are at least partially dry. The results also show that 11 plant species are potential KBA trigger elements in the Nacala/Mossuril area. In this study, specimens of Proscelotis aenia were found, which has not been seen for more than 100 years, therefore representing an important record for the region of Nacala/Mossuril due to the rarity of this fossorial skink. The occurrence of several endemic and near endemic species leads to strong potential for this region to trigger a KBA. DNA analyses are being conducted that may lead to the discovery of new species to science.

Flora survey in Pemba Bay, Northern Mozambique

Flora survey in Pemba Bay (Photo Credits: Acácio Chechene- WCS-Mozambque)

Fieldwork was conducted to confirm the presence of the species and obtain quantitative data for those shortlisted flora species. Researchers from the Cabo Delgado Local University (University of Lúrio) together with WCS scientists led the survey. The six potential KBA trigger species were identified over two expeditions carried out in January and May of 2023. In addition, a total of 12 endemic and threatened species were documented within the sampling area. These results, provide adequate data to re-assess the KBA status of the Pemba Bay.

Pemba Bay is in Cabo Delgado Province and was shortlisted as a potential KBA trigger in 2019 based on six flora species that did not have enough data to meet the thresholds. For that reason, this site was flagged as a priority for further ground-truthing.

Acácio Chechene; Eleutério Duarte; Hermenegildo Matimele and Hugo Costa

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