Afromont Research Digest | December 2016

Afromont Research Digest | December 2016

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201612 mainAfroMont, a knowledge sharing platform, was initiated in 2007 by the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) to focus research attention on the diverse issues and challenges facing the mountainous regions of sub-Saharan Africa. AfroMont is an online media platform, now with eight years of activities, all with a focus on Africa mountain research and Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) in African countries. We follow advances in African mountain research and issues including news and specialized opinion articles covering all aspects of global change in mountains.

Photo credit: Drakensberg Sani Pass flowers, Dr Clinton Carbutt, Plant Scientist at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, South Africa.





AfroMont Editorial December 2016: Every day is Mountain Day

We celebrate International Mountain day every year on the 11th of December, but every day is Mountain Day at the new Afromontane Research Unit, established recently at the University of Free State’s QwaQwa campus. The QwaQwa campus is a rural campus, and has had a difficult history, being the satellite campus of the University of the North and very much ignored for about 40 years. Once allocated to the much closer University of the Free State, it began to put itself on the map as a credible teaching and research institute, with around 3000 students at any one time. Around 1000 of the students are residential students, an advantage for them because of the remoteness of the campus. Interestingly, during the 2014 – 2016 drought, the campus had to invest massively in water tanks as the campus and surrounding town of Phuthaditjhaba had no water at all, other than borehole water. This is one of the many challenges of living and working in a remote mountain region.

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Another significant (although grim) international day.

International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, 6th November.

In 2001, the UN General Assembly declared 6 November of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. See

This ‘day’ to promote this concerning issue seems like a step in the right direction. Wildlife, as well as natural resources like oil and timber, is often looted during and after conflicts, and mountains like Mt Rwenzori and the Virunga National Park on the border of the DRC and Uganda in Africa, have had their fair share of poaching, illegal logging and ongoing criminality in the post-DRC conflict years.

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AfroMont and collaborators write a book chapter on the Drakensberg Escarpment for a new Elsevier book

AfroMont and collaborators have written a book chapter on the Drakensberg Escarpment for the new Elsevier book called Mountain Ice and Water: Investigations of the Hydrologic Cycle in Alpine Environments. This book is a new volume of papers reviewed and edited by John Shroder, Emeritus Professor of Geography and Geology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, USA, and Greg Greenwood, Director of the Mountain Research Initiative from Bern, Switzerland. Chapters in this book were derived from research papers that were delivered at the Perth III Conference on Mountains of our Future Earth in Scotland in October 2015. The conference was established to help develop the knowledge necessary to respond effectively to the risks and opportunities of global environmental change and to support transformations toward global sustainability in the coming decades.

The publication date is 30th November 2016. See

Our chapter, the first in the book, is titled “The Drakensberg Escarpment as the Great Supplier of Water to South Africa” by S.J. Taylor, J.W.H. Ferguson, F.A. Engelbrecht, V.R. Clark, S. Van Rensburg and N. Barker.

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Africa’s highest mountain harbours Africa’s tallest trees

In a remote valley of the Kilimanjaro, Andreas Hemp from the University of Bayreuth in Germany and his team discovered a Entandrophragma excelsum specimen of 81.5m height. This equals the former record holder, a Sydney blue gum (Eucalyptus saligna) tree, which died in 2006. In general, tall tree species in Africa may have been overlooked because of a lack of studies outside the biodiversity hotspots. The massive Entandrophragma excelsum trees, considered to be more than 500 years of age, are important for the mountain's ecosystem. However, they are endangered due to illegal logging, threatening their habitat.

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High altitude observatories in the Drakensberg Escarpment

Sue van Rensburg of the Southern African Environmental Observatory Network (SAEON) says that two SAEON sites are now functional in the Drakensberg. The station in the Drakensberg sits at 3000m, which is currently the highest in SA. Their 3000m weather station made it into the SAEON highlights report and you can check the weather on line at


New SciDevNet online course

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Interesting blog about mountains and wildlife:


dungbeetleIf you use Facebook, follow the Mountain Research Initiative to get the latest mountain-related news, job announcements, blog posts and, every now and then, some mountain eye-candy to brighten your day!


International Mountain Day 11th December 2016

201612 MountainDay

International Mountain Day 11th December 2016



International Mountain Day 2016 provides an occasion to highlight the variety and richness of mountain cultures, promote the vast array of mountain identities and ensure that indigenous rights are recognized and traditional ways endure.

The United Nations General Assembly designated 11 December “International Mountain Day”. As of 2003, it has been observed every year to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build alliances that will bring positive change to mountain peoples and environments around the world.

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AfroMont-Mt Kilimanjaro Mountain Research Meeting 22-26 February 2017

Afromont happyAt last – the online conference registration website is available.

AfroMont - Mt Kilimanjaro Mountain Research Conference 22 – 26 February 2017: the URL will be available from 1st August 2016 to register. Delegates can now register online and submit an abstract and make an EFT Payment to pay for their attendance.

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Upcoming Mountain Events

Have a look at the list of upcoming mountain-related events!

List of events


Editor's choice: selected new literature

  • A pulse of mid-Pleistocene rift volcanism in Ethiopia at the dawn of modern humans.
  • Assessment of ecosystem services and benefits in village landscapes - A case study from Burkina Faso.
  • AgriSuit: A web-based GIS-MCDA framework for agricultural land suitability assessment.
  • Characterising Wildlife Trade Market Supply-Demand Dynamics.
  • Understanding Pacific Ocean influence on inter-annual precipitation variability in the Sahel.
  • Subsistence use of papyrus is compatible with wetland bird conservation.
  • Impacts of forest loss on inland waters: Identifying critical research zones based on deforestation rates, aquatic ecosystem services, and past research effort.
  • Vegetation response to precipitation variability in East Africa controlled by biogeographical factors.
  • Biomass burning, land-cover change, and the hydrological cycle in Northern sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Identifying particular areas for potential seed collections for restoration plantings under climate change.
  • Wind drives nocturnal, but not diurnal, transpiration in Leucospermum conocarpodendron trees: implications for stilling on the Cape Peninsula.
  • Coordination and cross-sectoral integration in REDD plus : experiences from seven countries.
  • An evaluation of multiple land-cover data sets to estimate cropland area in West Africa.
  • Cultural valuation and biodiversity conservation in the Upper Guinea forest, West Africa.
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AfroMont was initiated to focus research attention on the diverse problems facing the mountainous regions of sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, as well as share information that may lead to the development of science-based solutions required for sustainable mountain development in the long term.

Anyone with an interest in African mountains and mountain research can contribute to this Digest, or to the blogs or the website. Please liaise with or send short concise material and photographs to Dr Sue Taylor. The AfroMont Research Digest is sent out every month to about 700 email addresses of the AfroMont Network.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Sue Taylor