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A biogeographical appraisal of the threatened South East Africa Montane Archipelago ecoregion

Bayliss, Julian, Bittencourt-Silva, Gabriela B., Branch, William R., Bruessow, Carl, Collins, Steve, Congdon, T. Colin E., Conradie, Werner, Curran, Michael, Daniels, Savel R., Darbyshire, Iain, and others. (2024) A biogeographical appraisal of the threatened South East Africa Montane Archipelago ecoregion. Scientific Reports, 14 (1). Article Number 5971. E-ISSN 2045-2322. (doi:10.1038/s41598-024-54671-z) (KAR id:105315)


Recent biological surveys of ancient inselbergs in southern Malawi and northern Mozambique have led to the discovery and description of many species new to science, and overlapping centres of endemism across multiple taxa. Combining these endemic taxa with data on geology and climate, we propose the ‘South East Africa Montane Archipelago’ (SEAMA) as a distinct ecoregion of global biological importance. The ecoregion encompasses 30 granitic inselbergs reaching > 1000 m above sea level, hosting the largest (Mt Mabu) and smallest (Mt Lico) mid-elevation rainforests in southern Africa, as well as biologically unique montane grasslands. Endemic taxa include 127 plants, 45 vertebrates (amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals) and 45 invertebrate species (butterflies, freshwater crabs), and two endemic genera of plants and reptiles. Existing dated phylogenies of endemic animal lineages suggests this endemism arose from divergence events coinciding with repeated isolation of these mountains from the pan-African forests, together with the mountains’ great age and relative climatic stability. Since 2000, the SEAMA has lost 18% of its primary humid forest cover (up to 43% in some sites)—one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa. Urgently rectifying this situation, while addressing the resource needs of local communities, is a global priority for biodiversity conservation.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1038/s41598-024-54671-z
Uncontrolled keywords: Adaptive radiation; Biodiversity; Biogeography; Climate and Earth system modelling; Conservation biology; Ecological modelling; Ecology; Ecosystem ecology; Ecosystem services; Evolution Forest; ecology; Palaeoecology; Speciation; Taxonomy; Tropical ecology; Zoology
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Funders: National Geographic Society (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2024 10:14 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2024 14:10 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Matimele, Hermenegildo.

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