Hundreds of new species discovered on Africa’s isolated sky islands

Hundreds of new species discovered on Africa’s isolated sky islands

GrrlScientist writes:

Located in southeastern portion of Africa in the nations of Malawi and Mozambique, there lies a chain of mountains, or granitic inselbergs, that tower above the surrounding landscape. They were formed millions of years ago when the Earth’s crust pushed upward and torrential rainfall cut through and washed away the soil, leaving patches of forest perched atop granite mountain peaks, separated from lower elevations. These inselbergs comprise an “inland archipelago” or “sky islands”, if you prefer, that are crowned with high-altitude grasslands and evergreen forests watered by cool moist winds from the Indian Ocean.

This area is unique. A group of scientists are proposing that this area is a distinct ecoregion because it hosts previously undocumented communities of plants and animals that are found nowhere else on earth. The scientists christened this ecoregion the South East Africa Montane Archipelago (SEAMA). The mountains in this newly proposed ecoregion extend across northern Mozambique to Mount Mulanje in Malawi, which is southern Africa’s second highest mountain.

“Ecological regions (ecoregions) are widely used to inform global conservation priorities,” said the study’s lead author, conservation biologist Julian Bayliss, a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University who also works for the National Network for Community Management of Natural Resources (ReGECom) in Mozambique.

These mountains are home to both the largest and the smallest mid-elevation rainforests in southern Africa, as well as biologically unique montane grasslands. [Continue reading…]

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