The Southern Zanzibar-Inhambane Coastal Forest Mosaic forms the southern extension of the Northern Zanzibar-Inhambane Coastal Forests Mosaic ecoregion. This ecoregion, extending south of the Lukuledi River (Tanzania) down to nearly the mouth of the Limpopo River (Mozambique), supports a mosaic of dry forest, savanna, woodland, and swamps. It falls under the influence of the Madagascar rainshadow, and hence receives typically lower rainfall than the Northern Zanzibar-Inhambane Coastal Forests Mosaic ecoregion. The ecoregion is very poorly known due to the prolonged civil war in Mozambique, and the status of the biodiversity of the habitats of the ecoregion, especially in northern Mozambique are largely unknown. This is a priority area for further biological investigation and for the establishment of new protected areas.
Location and General Description
The Southern Zanzibar-Inhambane Coastal Forest Mosaic runs approximately 2,200 kilometers (km) along the eastern coast of Africa, from just north of the town of Lindi in southern Tanzania to just south of Xai-Xai in Mozambique. There are also isolated outliers of habitats closely similar to those along the coast in the foothills of mountains in western Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, although these are small and the habitat has been extensively altered. The ecoregion is predominantly comprised of coastal forest mosaic within 50 km of the Indian Ocean, although it extents up to c.200 km inland in the above mentioned outliers. It is also found on small offshore islands in Mozambique, including the Bazarruto Archipelago.
Topographically, this ecoregion is a rolling landscape, with isolated higher plateaus and inselbergs, especially in the northern part of the ecoregion. To the south, sand dunes are an important feature, as they support coastal forest and thicket vegetation types. Inland from Lindi, remnant areas of Miocene uplift have been eroded into plateau areas that rise up to 800 meters (m) in altitude. Further south the Macondes Plateau in southern Tanzania and northernmost Mozambique upland areas rise up to 1,000 m altitude. The outliers in Malawi and Zimbabwe are associated with larger mountain areas (e.g. Mount Mulanje and the Chimanimani area).
The ecoregion is tropical in the northern portion and borders sub-tropical in the southern portion. In the Lindi area there is one prolonged dry season and one wet season, although showers are frequent. Rainfall, controlled by monsoon winds, is around 800-1,000 millimeters (mm) per year, although it is higher on some of the plateaus. In coastal Mozambique the climate follows the same general trends, but with lower rainfall in the north (around 800 mm per annum). Mean maximum temperatures are 30-27°C in the north and 24°C in the south of the ecoregion. Mean minimum temperatures are 18-15°C throughout the ecoregion. Towards Beira in southern Mozambique there is a significant difference between the day length in winter and summer, which is not the case in the northern part of the ecoregion.
Geologically the portion of the ecoregion found in Tanzania is mainly comprised of Tertiary marine sediments that have been uplifted and then eroded. In northern Mozambique there are many inselbergs protruding from these sediments, with the former comprised of Archean (over 2,500 million years ago) sediments that have been deformed and eroded over hundreds of millions of years. Adjacent to the coast there are recent dunes, and around river mouths, river-borne deposits are found. The soils developed over these sediments are also complex with six Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) soil units found in the ecoregion.
The human population of the ecoregion is higher than inland regions, but is not very high in any particular area. Moreover, there are no large towns in the ecoregion. Population densities of 20-50 persons per square kilometer (km2) are recorded along most of the Mozambique coast, although the prolonged war in Mozambique means that older statistics are likely to be unreliable. The population density on the Macondes Plateau in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique is higher than the rest of the ecoregion, and is associated with the areas of higher land and better climate for farming.
In terms of the phytogeographical classification of Moll and White and White, this ecoregion falls within the Zanzibar-Inhambane regional mosaic, and reaches the northern limits of the Tongaland-Pondoland regional transition zone. A recent reclassification of the phytogeographical framework of the region has defined the northern part of the area to fall within the Swahili Regional Center of Endemism, based on the large number of plants confined to it. This new phytochorion is mapped to extend to northern Mozambique, somewhat further south than the border we are using here. The majority of the Southern Zanzibar-Inhambane Coastal Forest Mosaic ecoregion is found in the new Swahili-Maputaland regional transition zone of Clarke. The vegetation consists of a mosaic of savanna woodland, forest patches, thickets, swamps, and littoral vegetation types. At the coastline the littoral vegetation transitions into mangrove vegetation, especially in sheltered bays and by rivers.
This ecoregion is typified by a high density of endemic species in the northern portion (southern Tanzania) followed by an almost complete lack of data in the central portion (northern and central Mozambique). The southern portion (in Mozambique) is again characterized by narrowly endemic species. Outliers of the vegetation type, with some of the characteristic species and other narrow endemics are found in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Species richness is low for the strict forest species, but boosted by the many savanna woodland and wetland species that inhabit the extensive areas of non-forest habitat in the ecoregion.
Within the plants and vertebrates there is a significant center of endemism in the Lindi area, associated with the different plateaus (especially Rondo) in the area. The Rondo plateau area has one of the most important concentrations of endemic plants in eastern Africa (more than 100 species in less than 50 km2 of forest). Further to the south there is another known area of endemism, on the islands associated with the Bazarruto Archipelago. Other endemics are scattered through the forest habitat, especially in lowland Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Additional Information on this Ecoregion
- For a shorter summary of this entry, see the WWF WildWorld profile of this ecoregion.
- To see the species that live in this ecoregion, including images and threat levels, see the WWF Wildfinder description of this ecoregion.
- World Wildlife Fund Homepage
- Broadley, D.G. 1990. The herpetofaunas of the islands off the coast of south Mozambique. Arnoldia Zimbabwe 9 (35): 469-493.
- Broadley, D.G. 1992. Reptiles and amphibians from the Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique. Arnoldia Zimbabwe 9 (38): 539-548.
- Buckle, C. 1978. Landforms in Africa. Longman, London.
- Burgess, N.D. and G.P. Clarke.,editors. 2000. The coastal forests of Eastern Africa. IUCN: Cambridge and Gland.
- Burgess, N.D., G.P. Clarke, and W.A. Rodgers. 1998. Coastal forests of eastern Africa: status, species endemism and its possible causes. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 64: 337-367.
- Chapman, J.D., and F. White. 1970. The evergreen forests of Malawi. Oxford: Commonwealth Forestry Institute.
- Clarke, G.P. 1998. A new regional centre of endemism in Africa. D.F. Cutler, C.R. Huxley, J.M. Lock, editors. Aspects of the ecology, taxonomy and chorology of the floras of Africa and Madagascar. Kew Bulletin Additional Series. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
- Dowsett-Lemaire F. 1990. The flora and phytogeography of the evergreen forests of Malawi. II. Lowland Forests. Bull. Jardin Botanique Nat. Belgique 60: 9-71.
- Moll, E. and F. White. 1978. The Indian Ocean coastal belt. In M.J.A. Werger, editor, with assistance from A.C. Van Bruggen. Biogeography and Ecology of Southern Africa. The Hague: Dr. W. Junk Publishers.
- Nicholson, S.E. 1994. Recent rainfall fluctuations in Africa and their relationships to past conditions over the continent. The Holocene 4: 121-131.
- Saket, M. 1994. Report on the updating of the exploratory national forest inventory. Ministry of Agriculture, Directorate of Forests and Wildlife, Maputo.
- Stattersfield, A.J., M.J. Crosby, A.J. Long, and D.C. Wege. 1998. Endemic bird areas of the world. Priorities for biodiversity conservation. BirdLife Conservation Series No. 7. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
- Stuart, S N., R.J. Adams and M.D. Jenkins. 1990. Biodiversity in Sub-Saharan Africa and its islands: conservation, management and sustainable use. Occasional Papers of the IUCN Species Survival Commission No.6. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
- White, F. 1983. The vegetation of Africa, a descriptive memoir to accompany the UNESCO/AETFAT/UNSO Vegetation Map of Africa (3 Plates, Northwestern Africa, Northeastern Africa, and Southern Africa, 1:5,000,000). UNESCO, Paris.
- WWF and IUCN. 1994. Centers of plant diversity. A guide and strategy for their conservation. Volume 1. Europe, Africa, South West Asia and the Middle East. IUCN Publications Unit, Cambridge, U.K.
- WWF. 1998. A conservation assessment of terrestrial ecoregions of Africa: Draft proceedings of a workshop, Cape Town, South Africa, August 1998. World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC, USA.
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