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The Namba mountains: new hope for Afromontane forest birds in Angola

  • MICHAEL S. L. MILLS (a1), MARTIM MELO (a2) and ALEXANDRE VAZ (a3)
Summary
Summary

Afromontane forest is the most localised and threatened habitat type in Angola. For the past 40 years the estimate of the area covered by this habitat in Angola has been c.200 ha. At present, 85 ha remain at Mt Moco, the most important known site to date. This habitat holds 20 bird taxa of conservation significance but some are now rare or absent at Mt Moco. Given the small extent of forest, its high conservation value and the severe human impacts on it, finding new areas of Afromontane forest is a high conservation priority. With this objective, we visited the Namba mountains in July 2010, where c.100 ha was thought to remain in the 1970s, to establish the extent and condition of forest there and to conduct bird surveys. We found closed-canopy Afromontane forest with an abundance of Podocarpus latifolius and little human disturbance. We recorded 89 bird species, 56 in or adjacent to forest and including all 20 priority taxa and a significant population of the Endangered Swierstra’s Francolin Pternistis swierstrai. On-screen digitising of forest patches using Google Earth indicates that the larger patches are an order of magnitude larger than at Mt Moco and that there is currently > 590 ha of forest in the Namba mountains, more than trebling the previous national estimate. The site qualifies as a new Important Bird Area and is a high priority for inclusion in Angola’s protected area network.

Resumo

A floresta de montanha é o habitat mais localizado de Angola. Até ao presente estudo, estimava-se que apenas cerca de 200 ha permaneciam no país, com a maior área (85 ha) localizada no Monte Moco. Este tipo de floresta alberga populações de 20 espécies de aves prioritárias para a conservação, algumas das quais que parecem ser agora raras ou extintas no Monte Moco. Tendo em conta a sua reduzida área, a sua importância para a conservação e as enormes pressões humanas a que estão sujeitas, considerou-se uma prioridade esclarecer qual a situação das florestas de montanha em Angola e em particular na Serra de Namba onde, em 1970, julgava-se que ainda persistiam cerca de 100 ha. Com este objectivo, em Julho de 2010 fizemos levantamentos da extensão e tipo de florestas e das aves presentes na Serra de Namba. A nossa amostragem revelou a existência de floresta de montanha de copa fechada com a presença abundante de Podacarpus latifolius e com reduzida perturbação humana. No total foram registadas 89 espécies de aves, 56 das quais presentes na floresta ou nas suas margens. Estas incluem as 20 espécies prioritárias para a conservação, com destaque para uma população importante do Francolim de Swiestra Pternistis swiestrai, classificado como ‘Em Perigo’. A digitalização dos fragmentos de floresta a partir das imagens do Google Earth permitem estimar em mais de 590 ha a área de floresta existente na Serra de Namba, valor este que mais do que triplica a área de floresta de montanha conhecida até hoje para Angola. Para além disso, os maiores fragmentos de floresta de Namba são dez vez maiores que os da floresta do Moco. As florestas de Namba reúnem os requisitos para serem classificadas como uma Área de Importância para as Aves (IBA: Important Bird Area) e constituem uma prioridade para inclusão no sistema de áreas protegidas de Angola.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence; e-mail: michael@birdingafrica.com
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  • ISSN: 0959-2709
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