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Saving the Island in the Sky: the plight of the Mount Mulanje cedar Widdringtonia whytei in Malawi

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2007

Julian Bayliss
Also at: Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust, P.O. Box 139, Mulanje, Malawi Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10460-1090, USA
Steve Makungwa
Department of Forestry and Horticulture, Bunda College, University of Malawi, Lilongwe, Malawi
Joy Hecht
Consultant on Environmental Economics and Policy to the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust
David Nangoma
Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust, PO Box 139, Mulanje, Malawi
Carl Bruessow
Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust, PO Box 139, Mulanje, Malawi
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The Endangered Mulanje cedar Widdringtonia whytei, endemic to the Mount Mulanje massif in Malawi, has undergone a drastic decline due to increased fire incidence and illegal logging. Valued for its fine timber, attractive fragrance, and pesticide-resistant sap, the tree has been regarded as highly desirable since its discovery in the late 19th century. Because of its steep slopes and isolated high altitude plateau, Mount Mulanje is also a refuge for a number of other endemic plant species. The first assessment of the Mulanje cedar since 1994 was commissioned by the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust to ascertain the species' current extent and status. This study identified an area of 845.3 ha of Mulanje cedar, which represents a loss of 616.7 ha over the previous 15 years. Of the recorded trees 32.27% (37,242 m3) were dead cedars. Therefore, under current Department of Forestry harvest licensing, there remains in theory sufficient dead cedar to last >30 years. At this stage it is imperative that cedar nurseries are established and saplings planted out across the mountain on an annual basis, small cedar clusters are protected to facilitate regeneration, and a strict monitoring programme is followed to prevent the cutting of live cedar.

© 2007 Fauna & Flora International