A new study led by researchers from the University of York suggests protected areas in East Africa are not conserving plants such as the iconic Acacia tree.
Acacia, the thorny flat-topped tree that characterises the African savannas, is an important component of ecosystem diversity. However, the researchers found that the majority of Acacia biodiversity 'hotspots' receive little protection through the protected area network, which includes national parks, nature and forest reserves. The situation, they say, may be exacerbated by climate change.
The results of the study, which was led by researchers from the Environment Department's Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Dynamics (KITE) and Centre for the Integration of Research Conservation and Learning (CIRCLE), and involved the Missouri Botanical Garden (St Louis, USA) and the East African Herbarium (Nairobi, Kenya), are published in the journal Plant Ecology and Evolution.
The researchers found that two thirds of Acacia diversity hotspots had less than 10 per cent coverage by protected areas. They also conclude that due to climate change, high-elevation, moisture-dependent species of Acacia may contract their ranges towards mountain peaks, where protected areas are dominated by forest reserves. These areas provide only a low level of protection compared to national parks and nature reserves.
Dr Andy Marshall, from the University's Environment Department and Director of Conservation Science at Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo, said: "The Acacia is one of Africa's most iconic groups of trees, but our data suggest protected areas such as national parks do not really conserve them. This is most likely because most protected areas were originally established to protect big game rather than to protect biodiversity and plants."
"Our data suggest that if we were to take the existing protected areas and place them completely at random across the area, we would get a better coverage of Acacia dive
|Contact: Caron Lett|
University of York