- This event has passed.
Public Talk : Important Plant Areas (Ipas): Novel Approaches To Plant Conservation In Uganda
August 4 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Uganda is botanically unique as the meeting point for a number of Africa’s floras, including influences from the moist Congolian forests in the west to the dry Acacia-Commiphora savanna that extends from north-eastern Uganda into the Horn of Africa. The topography of the country also varies greatly, from moist plains and valleys as low as 620 m to Afroalpine habitats of Ruwenzori Mountains and Mount Elgon, the former featuring one of the last remaining tropical glaciers in Africa.
The vast range of habitats yields a rich flora with more than 4,800 native species, at least 100 of which are endemic or near-endemic to Uganda. Unique Ugandan plant species include the rare and threatened cycad species Encephalartos whitelockii. Known only from a single site globally, Mpanga Gorge, the population here represents one of the most concentrated stands of cycads globally, but it had been badly damaged by the construction of a hydropower dam, leaving the species threatened with extinction.
This wealth of biodiversity requires prioritisation of the most critical areas to conserving Uganda’s flora, given limitation of resources for their conservation. Uganda’s economy is principally dependent upon small-holder agriculture, while there has also been a rise in extractive activities such as mining, oil exploration and logging for timber and fuel in recent years. These and other activities are causing rapid loss of plant species, some even before they are described. Current estimates suggest one in five of the world’s plant species is threatened with extinction globally (Antonelli et al 2020).
Despite commitments by the international community to halt biodiversity decline, for example through implementing the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD 1992) and the associated Aichi Biodiversity Targets (CBD 2012a), conservation efforts targeting plant diversity are often hampered by lack of suitable data for prioritising conservation action.
Plant conservation priorities are often poorly represented in national and global frameworks (Corlett 2016) because of a lack of data (e.g. on the rare and threatened plant species and their habitats) to inform conservation decision making. Almost all birds and mammals but only a minute fraction of plants, fungi and invertebrates have been evaluated against conservation criteria (Cowie et al 2022), Without a clear framework focused on where the most important sites for plant diversity are, there is a great risk of losing unique species and habitats completely. Conservation of such areas will also help protect the vital ecosystem services Uganda’s flora provides, including provision of food and medicines, protection of water resources and soil fertility, and regulation of climate.
Efforts to identify Important Plant Areas (IPAs) in Uganda are being made through a partnership between Makerere University Botany Dept and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, under the Tropical Important Plant Areas programme. Activities include collaboration with in-country stakeholders, gathering data on species and habitats of conservation importance, assessing endemic and near-endemic species for the IUCN Red List and field activities to assess the threats to biodiversity and conservation activities across Uganda. Through this work, we will identify a network of Important Plant Areas (IPAs) with the ultimate aim of increasing representation of plants within Uganda’s conservation planning and actions.
It is against this background that we have organised this public talk. The main aim is to improve plant conservation in Uganda through the establishment of a network of scientists and other stakeholders who deal with different aspects of plant conservation, from plant taxonomy, ecology, conservation genetics, to protected area managers and social workers for community engagement and participation.
This public talk is scheduled for 4th August 2022 via Zoom meeting at 4:00pm. The Key Note speaker is Professor James Kalema, a Botanist, Makerere University, Dept of Plant Sciences Microbiology and Biotechnology. The Zoom link will be shared very soon.