Hermenegildo Alfredo Matimelee, National Herbarium of Mozambique
your current organization: The National Herbarium of Mozambique (LMA), established in 1967, houses the country’s largest reference collection of dried, pressed plant specimens, currently comprising over 70,000 accessions, focussing on the wild plant diversity of Mozambique. LMA deals with plant identification as well as being an important data source for research and undergraduate students training. In addition, the herbarium provides considerable inputs into conservation planning through mapping species’ distributions, assessing their conservation status and identifying plant “hotspots”. Furthermore, the herbarium is tasked with species prioritisation for targeted seed collecting for ex-situ conservation.
Currently, the herbarium is an important reference source both for Flora Zambesiaca and for providing significant insights into patterns of plant diversity in Mozambique. LMA is currently involved in a range of projects with national and international partners. These include projects on plant diversity, conservation and sustainable use in Maputaland and Chimanimani, and contributions to climate change research. Collaborations with partners in South Africa and the UK are helping to build expertise in taxonomy, conservation planning and database management. The herbarium is keen to continue to build this expertise and to document the plants of the many under-studied regions of Mozambique.
your personal role in the organization: At present my responsibilities within the National Herbarium of Mozambique include identification of priority areas for plant conservation. This is currently done through vegetation surveys throughout the country to identify plants and map their distribution as well as determine their conservation status under the IUCN Red List criteria and categories. Thereafter, I use ArcGIS 10.3.1 to overlap distributions of different rare, endemic and threatened species to identify sites of greatest overlap.
history of your personal work in conservation and GIS: I have always been passionated about Biodiversity Conservation that is why I chose to be a Botanist. As a botanist, I have been working at the National Herbarium of Mozambique identifying plants and documenting their distribution in Mozambique. However, recently there has been a raising concerns regarding biodiversity conservation in Mozambique. For instance, the emerging mineral resource exploitation in the country might threaten biodiversity. Certain areas of endemism, such as Maputaland Centre of Plant Endemism (MCPE), are under pressure from increased land use due to high population density. To deal with all these threats, it is important to have qualified personal who works towards better understanding in safeguarding biodiversity and sustainable management practices. Therefore, I decided to attend an MSc programme in Conservation Biology at the University of Cape Town to further develop my skills and broaden my knowledge in this field and provide me with better insights about what future steps could be taken in sustainable land use and conservation of biodiversity. I acquired the MSc degree in June 2016. Currently, I am in a better position to implement the knowledge and tools acquired during the training, through implementation of related future projects in the country. For example, my MSc thesis aimed to map the distribution and assess the conservation status of endemic plants of the MCPE. Then, using MaxEnt I modelled distribution of 12 species. Subsequently, I used ArcGIS 10.3.1 to identify sites that could be considered priority for conservation initiatives. At present moment, I am working with local government in southern Mozambique to influence the conservation of Raphia australis within its habitat.
*-Abstract/summary of the paper you will present:
The Mapuland Centre of Endemism (MCE), an area stretching from northern-east KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to Limpopo River in southern Mozambique, holds more than 2,500 native plant species. Of those, over 203 are endemic or near endemic to this area. However, the current high human population density in MCE, coupled with high population growth, has increased the pressure on the natural resources of the region and threatens the natural vegetation and plant diversity. Therefore, there is a pressing need to fully understand the threats faced by the Maputaland endemic and near endemic plants and to carry out appropriate conservation actions. In this context, the main aim of the study was to document the distribution of the MCE endemic plant species, with particular emphasis on southern Mozambique. The study also aimed to document the threats to these species and to assess their global conservation status using the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Categories and Criteria. This was done by gathering historical species distribution data from herbarium specimens and by assessing their current distribution in the field. In addition, a land cover data set was used to evaluate the level of habitat transformation over time. As a result, 13 endemics were assessed, 11 of these species for the first time. Of the 13 species assessed, two were assessed as Least Concern, five as Vulnerable, four Endangered, one Critically Endangered, and one possibly Extinct. MaxEnt models were used to model the potential distribution of the species assessed and to identify hotspots and priority areas for conservation. The priority areas represent sites of greatest overlap, where 50% of all modelled species overlap in their suitable potential distributions. With this approach, priority areas were identified that can be used in conservation planning, protected area expansion, or other conservation projects. This analysis showed that the highest number of the study species (>7) is concentrated within the Licuati Forest, located south of Maputo in Matutuine District, southern Mozambique. The main threat to this area is charcoal extraction and although none of the endemic species are targeted for charcoal production, the impact of the associated habitat destruction on the endemic species is expected to cause severe declines. It is recommended that studies on the dynamics of the Licuati Thicket vegetation are needed, particularly in terms of the impact of charcoal extraction on the endemics.