SARChI participates in 2017 conference on African mountains

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The Afromont Research Network on Global Change in African Mountains (Dr Sue Taylor) and the “Kili” Research Group on Mt Kilimanjaro (Drs Andrea and Claudia Hemp) hosted an international conference at Moshi near Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania from 22 to 26 Feb 2017. Entitled “African mountain ecosystems under global change:  Linking biodiversity, biotic interactions and biogeochemical ecosystem processes.”

The conference attracted some 30 presentations on four themes ranging from tracking global change and linking biodiversity and biogeochemical process to sustainable development and governance of African mountain ecosystems.  The Chair (Peter Taylor) presented a summary of research demonstrating declines in grassland-associated Afromontane small mammals while University of Venda PHD student (Catherine Vise) presented on The Vhembe Biosphere Reserve Invasive Species Working group: putting biosphere reserve principles into action. Many parallels were evident between case studies from different mountain systems throughout Africa.

Download the conference abstracts (3 MB): Abstracts 2017, African mountain ecosystems under global change

The escalating rate and impact of human population increase and environmental degradation were graphically demonstrated by research conducted on Mt Kilimanjaro by the Kili Project which reveals that Mt Kilimanjaro has become an island surround by cultivation where changing weather (primarily decreasing precipitation) and landuse patterns critically jeopardise the role of Mt Kilimanjaro as a water tower on which 10 million people are dependent. Moreover, destruction of natural habitats has also destroyed natural corridors, e.g. of elephants between Amboseli Reserve in Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro and between forest taxa of Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru. The ambitious Kili project deploys 65 sites on Mt Kilimanjaro where several taxa and ecosystem services are monitored on a regular basis. These data are already yielding interesting patterns – e.g. while alpine flora move downslope in response to global change, grasshopper species are moving upslope. The papers presented at the conference not only highlighted the urgency of addressing losses of biodiversity of ecosystem services in African mountains but also the critical need for natural and social scientists to work closely with each other and politicians to address these challenges.