New species of tree discovered in Tanzania mountains

July 16, 2019

Researchers have discovered a new species of tree in the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania, part of the Eastern Arc Mountains, and a globally important region for species in need of conservation.

The tree, which grows up to 20m tall and has white flowers, has been categorised as endangered due to its restricted population range at only 8km-sq. It is as yet unknown what kind of wildlife might rely on the tree, but it is most likely pollinated by a species of beetle.

Researcher Dr Andy Marshall, from the University of York's Department of Environment and Geography, discovered the tree when carrying out a survey of the forest to understand the environmental factors that influence the amount of carbon that forests can store.

Botanist George Gosline, from Kew Gardens, recognized that this is a new species related to a group previously thought to be restricted to western Africa. This in turn led to recognition of three new species in the group.

Dr Marshall said: "The tree is in a particularly beautiful part of the world - up high in the clouded mountains and surrounded by tea estates. Now that we know it exists, we have to look at ways to protect it.

"With such a small population, it is important that it does not become isolated from other forests in the region, due to increasing agriculture. Small forests need to be connected to others to ensure seed dispersal and species adaptation to climate change."

The forests of these mountains have been reduced in size by thousands of square kilometres over the past hundred or so years and are now threatened by climate change. The researchers argue that it is essential to look at conservation methods in order to maintain or increase the tree population.

Research shows that forests that have been restored with the help of human intervention rarely achieve the same number of species that would have occurred naturally. This means that conservation efforts should begin before any further damage occurs.

A research project, led by Dr Marshall, in another part of Tanzania, the Magombera Forest, should provide researchers with further understanding of the best methods to employ for protecting these secluded rare species. The project includes working with local villagers to develop new methods for restoring forests and to find alternative sources for wood, and how local people can help to reduce wildfires and invasive vines that can kill trees.

With local support, thousands of small trees have grown back in areas once lost, suggesting that a similar approach could be used in other areas where species are at risk of becoming extinct through human activity and climate change.

George Gosline, botanist from Kew Gardens, said: "The discovery of this extremely rare species reaffirms the importance of the Eastern Arc Mountains as one of the most important reservoirs of biodiversity in Africa.

"The area is a refuge for ancient species from a time when a great forest covered all of tropical Africa. These forest remnants are precious and irreplaceable."

The discovery is not the first to be made in the region by Dr Andy Marshall; other discoveries in the Eastern Arc Mountains include a new chameleon species and the Polyceratocarpus askhambryan-iringae tree, which was discovered by chance whilst Dr Marshall was researching one of the world's rarest primates, the kipunji monkey.
-end-
The research, funded by the Leverhulme Trust; Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew; Australian Research Council; African Wildlife Foundation; Flamingo Land Ltd.; and the B. A. Krukoff Fund for the Study of African Botany, is published in Kew Bulletin.

University of York

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.