News and media coverage

September 29th, 2022

CONTAN Project: Field practical training on biodiversity monitoring and conservation at the scientific station Nkweseko, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The CONTAN project is an Erasmus+ Capacity-building project in the field of higher education “Developing curricula for biodiversity monitoring and conservation in Tanzania”. The project aims to build the capacity of students in the field of higher education for monitoring and conservation of biodiversity in Tanzania. During three weeks, from September 11th to 30th 2022, field training was conducted at the scientific station Nkweseko. The participants, affiliated to Sokoine University at Morogoro, University of Dar es Salaam and the College of African Wildlife Management at Mweka (Fig. 2), Kilimanjaro, were offered several training units. Dr Andreas Hemp, University of Bayreuth, showed them how to install vegetation plots, how to record vegetation with the method of Braun-Blanquet and how to record and evaluate climatic data (Fig. 3). Petr Blazek from IFER – Monitoring and Mapping Solutions introduced the method „field map“ (Fig. 4). This program is used for the allocation of forest ecosystems and data. Thus, it is possible to more easily determine biomass storage of any given plot with a stand of trees (Fig. 5). Prof Sigrid Liede-Schumann from the Department Plant Systematics, University of Bayreuth, offered training on plant taxonomy and biodiversity monitoring (Fig. 6). Students learned about flower morphology and how to describe a new species. Dr Claudia Hemp (University of Bayreuth and Bik-F, Senckenberg) led the groups to savanna habitats around Lake Chala at eastern Kilimanjaro (Fig. 7), where the basics of entomology were shown and students had to actively catch arthropods (Fig. 8, 9). These were determined with the help of available identification books (Fig. 10). All in all, almost 100 students from the three institutions had the opportunity to learn about field methods of biodiversity monitoring. Impressive was the vehicle the College of Wildlife Management Mweka used for the transport of students to the field sites (Fig. 11).

-Claudia Hemp-

Links to Sokoine webpage:

Field practical training on biodiversity monitoring and conservation – Department of Ecosystems and Conservation | Sokoine University of Agriculture (sua.ac.tz)

Students learning field map technology for forestry inventory and monitoring – Department of Ecosystems and Conservation | Sokoine University of Agriculture (sua.ac.tz)

Field practical training on Plant Taxonomy and Biodiversity Conservation – Department of Ecosystems and Conservation | Sokoine University of Agriculture (sua.ac.tz)

Field practical training on entomology – hands-on learning experience with insects – Department of Ecosystems and Conservation | Sokoine University of Agriculture (sua.ac.tz)

 

September 29th, 2022

Field work and field trip to beehive fence project in West Kilimanjaro

Eugenia Degano (SP2), Prof. Berta-Martín-Lopez, Milena Gross (both SP3), and Susann Adloff (SP4) visited the beehive fence project in West Kilimanjaro in early September (See here: https://www.tef.or.tz/co-existence/). The project initiated by the Tanzanian Elephant Foundation (TEF) fosters human-elephant coexistence , while supporting social engagement and cohesion in the community and providing livelihoods. The mitigation strategy makes use of ‘biological control‘: Elephants are very sensitive to bee stings. After the expansion of Kilimanjaro National Park and the relocation of settlements into the migratory pathways of elephants in West Kilimanjaro, severe human-elephant conflicts, including killing of elephants, have emerged, as the elephants would fed on the crops and destroy the agricultural fields. TEF in collaboration with local communities have been building a beehive fence around the agricultural fields, preventing elephants from entering and crop-riding and reclaiming harmony between people and elephants in West Kilimanjaro.

Richard, a community member of the Beehive Fence Project, accompanied us during the field trip and confirmed the success of the project. He is particularly happy about the harmony between people and elephants and gaining economic benefits from selling the ‘Elephant friendly‘ honey which can be bought in different places in Moshi.

In addition, Mr Lameck Mkuburu, founder of Tanzanian Elephant Foundation, has been supporting the Kili SES project by providing excellent information in the interview phase, and now by answering our survey and providing new contacts of nature conservationists. Representatives of the Kili SES project have contributed to the project by preparing and hanging a beehive to promote human-elephant coexistence in West Kilimanjaro. Good luck with such role model project!

-Milena Gross-

September 1st, 2022

Kili-SES Survey: training week and kick-off of sampling process

Six Kili-SES subprojects are interested in social data to understand the role of nature for human well-being in the Kilimanjaro Socio-Ecological System. Therefore, we want to survey more than 600 people who live in, work at and visit Kilimanjaro. This can be achieved only through a team effort: 20 scientists and research assistants coordinate the sampling process and interview survey respondents. During a training week, members of each subproject presented and demonstrated their sections, practiced together in teams or in the whole group, and gave each other feedback. We also shared our expectations for the sampling process to come and wrote a team agreement together. Thanks to these intense and long days at our research station and everybody’s engagement, every survey member is now an expert in coordinating and conducting the survey, while feeling confident, comfortable, and having fun. We started the sampling process less than two weeks ago and we are very happy to see the first 66 data entries of all stakeholder groups being submitted to our Kili-SES survey database. We are grateful for everybody’s contribution who participates in the survey as respondents and / or supports the sampling process. Asante sana!

-Milena Gross –

 

August 12th, 2022

Researcher from the University of Bayreuth discovers new orchid species in the mountains of Tanzania

Bayreuth biologist PD Dr. Andreas Hemp has discovered a previously unknown orchid species of the genus Rhipidoglossum in northeastern Tanzania. Together with his British colleague Dr. Phil Cribb from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, London, he has scientifically described it in the journal “Kew Bulletin”. The new species was named Rhipidoglossum pareense, in keeping with its location in the South Pare Mountains.

The most striking feature of the newly discovered orchid, which is only a few centimeters tall, is its white flowers. If the orchid is held against the sunlight, the flowers appear to glisten. The flowers are smaller but more numerous than those of the closest related orchid species, Rhipidoglossum leedalii. The inflorescence is much more compact and resembles that of a lily of the valley. Rhipidoglossum pareense grows in cloud forest at an altitude above 1,500 meters, where it was discovered by Dr. Andreas Hemp during research work. The trees here only reach a height of ten meters and are densely covered with mosses, ferns and orchids. Rhipidoglossum pareense also belongs to these epiphytes.

“The now discovered orchid species probably owes its existence to the very unusual climatic conditions. In the cloud forests of the South Pare Mountains, although it often rains only 700 millimeters a year, there is also the fog precipitation, which is two to three times this amount. This mountainous region in northeastern Tanzania is truly a botanical El Dorado. Recently, I also discovered a new species of acanthus here, and the taxonomic description will be published soon,” says PD Dr. Andreas Hemp from the Department of Plant Systematics at the University of Bayreuth.

In the course of his studies on the biodiversity and ecology of African forests, the Bayreuth biologist has established vegetation study plots on numerous mountains. On each plot, he has completely recorded and documented the species composition of the vegetation. In total, the resulting database now comprises several thousand vegetation records. Typical of all tropical mountain rainforests are the epiphytes, which play an important role in water balance and biodiversity. “A lot of luck is involved in finding such small epiphytes as the newly discovered orchid: If it had not bloomed at the right time, it would certainly have gone unnoticed,” says Hemp. In the neighboring Tanzanian Nguru Mountains, which like the South Pare Mountains belong to the Eastern Arc Mountain chain, he found another previously unknown orchid species from the large genus Polystachya during his recent research visit.

Internationally, the leading specialist on orchids in East Africa is Dr. Phil Cribb of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, London. He is the author of the orchid identification volumes of the “Flora of Tropical East Africa”. “After I could not clearly identify the orchid discovered in the South Pare Mountains using these volumes, I asked him for his expertise. Together we then described the new species and also chose the name Rhipidoglossum pareense,” reports Hemp, who visits the herbarium at the botanic garden in Kew at least once a year. “The herbarium at Kew contains the world’s most comprehensive collection of plants from East Africa. The long-standing collaboration with the outstanding connoisseurs of African flora there is a valuable support and always a stimulus for my own research work. Such comprehensive collections, which document vegetation from earlier decades and centuries, are indispensable for current biodiversity research,” says the Bayreuth plant systematist.

Source: Press release No. 133/2022 of University of Bayreuth (Researcher from the University of Bayreuth discovers new orchid species in the mountains of Tanzania (uni-bayreuth.de))

>> Publication: P. J. Cribb, A. Hemp: Rhipidoglossum pareense (Orchidaceae: Epidendroideae), a new species from Tanzania. Kew Bulletin (2022). DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/S12225-022-10027-2

 

August 9th, 2022

Global study explores and weights causes of tree species diversity

The number of tree species growing in regions close to the equator is significantly higher than in regions further north and south of the earth. An international study published in „Nature Ecology and Evolution“ investigates the causes of this with a precision never before achieved. It emphasizes that the diversity of tree species in the tropics does not depend solely on bioclimatic factors. The study is based on a cooperation of 222 universities and research institutions. On the part of the University of Bayreuth, PD Dr. Andreas Hemp, who has been researching vegetation in mountainous regions of East Africa for more than 30 years, was involved in this international research.

The latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG) is a pattern often observed in research for the global distribution of plant and animal species. In general, the higher the northern and southern latitude, the lower the species diversity. This is also true for trees, whose species were estimated at 73,000 worldwide in a previous international study. However, the factors that contribute to species diversity in different regions of the world and the degree of their respective influence are far from being adequately researched. The new study, which now examines the diversity of tree species on the world’s forested areas, is based on a systematic analysis of data obtained from around 1.3 million forested sample areas on Earth. The authors list 47 different possible influencing factors and divide them into the following categories: bioclimate, terrain characteristics, vegetation, landscape conditions, human influences and soil conditions. Especially numerous are the bioclimatic influencing factors, for example the temperatures and precipitation in the course of the year.

Research contributions of the University of Bayreuth: Biodiversity on Kilimanjaro

“Never before has there been such a comprehensive and detailed investigation regarding the question of what causes the occurrence of tree species and their diversity in the forested regions of the earth,” says Bayreuth biologist PD Dr. Andreas Hemp of the Chair of Plant Systematics. For more than 30 years, he has been researching the plant world in East Africa together with partners in Europa, Kenya and Tanzania. Within the framework of the joint project “Kili-SES”, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), he is investigating the changes in vegetation on Kilimanjaro and the climatic, economic and social causes involved. Together with a team of students and doctoral candidates from Bayreuth, he has established research areas on Kilimanjaro at altitudes between 800 and 4,600 meters. Here, he systematically determined the species diversity of the trees and investigated the main factors that influence it.

Results on tree species diversity worldwide: Stronger anthropogenic influences in the tropics?

On a global scale, the authors of the study came to the following conclusion: In 82.6 percent of forested areas, bioclimatic factors determine species diversity. In contrast, in 11.7 percent of forested areas, species diversity cannot be attributed to a specific category of factors. This global average is significantly exceeded in the equator tropical regions: Here, 37.1 percent of forested areas do not indicate that factors in any particular category have a dominant influence on forest species diversity. At the same time, tree species diversity is significantly higher in these forested areas. Against this background, the study emphasizes: human economic activities, landscape conditions and soil properties influence the diversity of tree species growing in regions close to the equator just as strongly or even significantly more than bioclimatic factors. The influence of the bioclimate has been partly overestimated in previous studies on the species diversity of trees in the tropics.

However, Dr. Andreas Hemp believes that this conclusion is premature: “In our work, we have found that the species composition of the forests on Kilimanjaro and the number of tree species growing here change mainly as a function of temperature and precipitation. Bioclimatic factors therefore play a dominant role. It is true that anthropogenic influences can be seen in many places in the forests of East Africa, especially in connection with the timber industry. But also numerous forest areas in Western and Central Europe have been intensively managed for centuries. Therefore, it does not seem immediately plausible that humans should have a stronger influence on species diversity in the regions around the equator than in our northern latitudes. Furthermore, it is not unproblematic that the study relies on global climate databases. Especially in tropical mountains, where climatic conditions change strongly within a small area and where climate stations are largely missing, the data of such databases with their coarse resolution are very unreliable. With regard to the weighting of factors determining species diversity in tropical forests, further, more refined studies are therefore still needed.” The Bayreuth biologist therefore shares the study’s call for more comprehensive data to be collected with the support of experts from forestry and biodiversity research in order to gain a clearer picture of tree species diversity in forested areas of Africa.

Source: Press release No. 131/2022 of University of Bayreuth (Global study explores and weights causes of tree species diversity (uni-bayreuth.de)

 May 10th, 2022

Mwanga Secondary School visiting the Station Kidia/Old Moshi

On May 10th, thirty students and five teachers from Mwanga Secondary School, North Pare visited the station Kidia to learn about the impact of environmental and climate change in the Kilimanjaro region. Mwanga Secondary School is partner of the Humboldt school in Bad Homburg (https://humboldtschule-hg.de/schule/mwanga-schulpartnerschaft.html) which is developing a concept for exchanging digital information on environmental issues with the support of PROBONO, an NGO located in Frankfurt am Main (https://www.probono-oneworld.de/). The Tanzanian students were therefore recording their visit to Kidia in order to share it afterwards with their partner school. The tour started in the tree nursery where saplings were reared for being replanted in degraded areas around Kilimanjaro. Afterwards, the reforested area on the premises of the Lutheran Parish Kidia was visited where a degraded area devoid of trees was rehabilitated 8 years ago. Here, pioneer tree species were planted at first, followed by shade-tolerant trees once an initial forest had formed. The species were partly selected because of their precious timber and their critical conservation status, such as Oxystigma msoo or Garcinia tanzaniensis. During the tour, it was discussed why indigenous tree species were much better for the environment than introduced tree species widely planted in Tanzania such as Eucalyptus or Grevillea. The students were especially interested in a probably new tree species in the genus Haplocoelum, detected in a forest reserve in the North Pare Mountains. The medicinal properties of the trees were also highlighted showing that trees are not only important because of their timber, but that they have multiple functions for a healthy environment. The grand finale of the tour was the two-year old sapling of the tallest tree species of Africa, Entandophragma excelsum.

 – Claudia Hemp –

 March 10 to April 1, 2022

SP3 team hosts successful workshop at Leuphana University to kick-off the Kili-SES Survey

From March 30th to April 1st, members of the Kili-SES Project with natural and social science background met at Leuphana University of Lüneburg to start developing the Kili-SES Survey questionnaire. The main agenda items of the workshop were to a) design the survey questionnaire, b) discuss collaborations between sub-projects (SPs)s, c) identify future needs and d) plan the months ahead.

The main output was an initial draft of the Kili-SES Survey questionnaire with an outline of the main sections. This survey is a crucial step within the Kili-SES project as the data will be used by members across all SPs. During the workshop, working groups were created to focus on crucial logistical issues such as sampling strategies, software set-up, permits and other fieldwork practicalities. A feedback session was also held the last day of the workshop to assess those dynamics that worked and those that still have room for improvement, something to be considered at future workshops held within the Kili-SES Project. The mobility breaks, ´walk & talk´ in the forest, and setting expectations for the workshop were some of the key highlights noted by the attendees. 

Overall, the SP3 team was happy to host this workshop which left everyone feeling motivated to move forward and continue working on the Kili-SES Survey together.

 – Jasmine Pearson, Berta Martín-López, John Sanya Julius & Milena Groß –

March 10, 2022

Visit of the German Ambassador of Dar es Salaam to the scientific stations Kidia & Nkweseko

On March 10th the German Ambassador, Mrs. Regine Heß, visited the Kili-SES Project. An overview of the Kili-SES project with its goals and the structure of seven subprojects was presented to her. In Kidia the nursery of the NGO TanzMont was visited showing tree saplings of indigenous species currently in the nursery for being planted out in April this year during the long rains. A tour through a plantation on the premises of Kidia Lutheran Parish followed with first trees set 8 years ago. After some years shade-tolerant tree species such as Entandophragma excelsum, the tallest tree species of Africa, were planted here. Fig. 1 B shows a two-year-old sapling of Entandophragma already being more than 3 m tall. In Kidia the oldest Lutheran church of Tanzania is located where the famous Dr Bruno Gutmann started one of the earliest missions in Tanzania. The old church was visited (renovated a few years ago also with funds of the German Embassy) and some of the history of the place presented. A hike to the nearby Msaranga valley ending in a huge waterfall followed (Fig. 2). The NGO TanzMont planted here numerous trees to restore the riverine forest. A visit to the station Nkweseko followed where Mrs. Heß inspected the infrastructure (Fig. 1 A). PhD student Giovanni Bianco presented his PhD and also explained in the name of the other PhD students of Kili-SES how students cope with logistics and their fieldwork.

We thank Ambassador Heß for the time she spent with us and her interest in the Kili-SES Project!

 – Claudia Hemp –

March 18, 2022

First phase of SP3 field work successfully completed

Dr. Jasmine Pearson, John Julius and Milena Gross finished their first phase of field work from January to March 2022. With support from their two field assistants, Joyce Joseph Massawe and Victor Lazaro Pallangyo, the SP3 team conducted semi-structured interviews with 42 Chagga people and other local farmers, 31 interviewees in the role of nature conservationists from e.g. governmental institutions and international and local non-governmental organizations as well as 20 interviewees in the role of international and local tour operators / guides.
The purpose of these interviews was to gather context-specific information on the demand and values for nature’s contributions to people (NCP) across key stakeholder groups. Participants were asked questions such as `Do you think nature at Mount Kilimanjaro is important (to you / your family / society)?’ / `What does nature at Mount Kilimanjaro contribute to your well-being and quality of life?‘ and `What is your relationship with nature at Mount Kilimanjaro?‘
Moreover, Dr. Jasmine Pearson facilitated a focus group discussion (FGD) with 19 nature conservationists. The main objectives were to select representative photos of 13 ecosystems and land use types of Mt Kilimanjaro, and to complement the interview data collected by John and Milena on the beneficial and detrimental contributions of nature to people.
The responses from the interviews and the FGD will be used to develop a larger-scale, quantitative survey with close-ended questions to elicit a representative sample of  the demand and values of NCP. The photos from the FGD will also be used within the survey to gain an understanding of NCP across the 13 ecosystems and land use types. This next fieldwork endeavor will be completed in collaboration with other sub-projects of the Kili-SES Research Units. The survey will be conducted with ca. 500 participants from July 2022 onwards.

The SP3 team is grateful for each unique and valuable contribution of the interviewees and focus group participants for their research, personal learning processes and the wider Kili-SES project.

– Milena Groß, John Julius & Jasmine Pearson –

February 14, 2022

Kili-SES engages three secondary schools to record weather data on the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro

The “Water-Team” (SP1-WP2) is proud to announce that three secondary schools have been engaged to support the recording of weather data in the Kili-SES study area as part of our ambition to increase participatory research. Weather data such as precipitation, barometric pressure, air temperature and humidity, wind speed and direction as well as solar radiation are important to estimate components of the water balance and to build reliable hydrological models. These data are not only needed to achieve our research objectives, but they can be used for agricultural, climate monitoring, weather forecasting and other applications which can benefit stakeholders and the society. For that reason, we decided to support the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory project (TAHMO, https://tahmo.org/). The project aims to develop a vast network of high-resolution weather stations (recording every 5 minutes) across sub-Saharan Africa and to ensure free data availability for research purposes and for national meteorological agencies. One way to contribute to the project is by acquiring weather stations, installing them in a safe place (e.g. in schools) and thus increasing the spatial coverage of the network. We decided to work together with secondary schools. This is not only for security reasons, but most importantly because the stations will be incorporated in the schools’ teaching programs. In fact, both teachers and students will be engaged with the data collection and analysis as well as with the maintenance of the stations. The idea is to make science a natural part of students’ lives by seeing how the weather data from their own schools translate into quantitative information.

You can find the locations of our weather stations on the TAHMO website, zooming in the Kilimanjaro southern slopes: https://tahmo.org/climate-data/. The locations were selected with the purpose to capture the altitudinal variability along the slope as well as the spatial variability from the western, central and eastern part of the study area.

– Fabia Codalli –

September 3, 2021

Publication: Deadwood as a carbon store: Insects accelerate decomposition on Mount Kilimanjaro

All over the world, climatic influences, insects and other arthropods, as well as microorganisms cause a constant decomposition of deadwood. This natural decomposition releases significant amounts of carbon into the environment and therefore has a major impact on the Earth’s carbon cycle. This has been proven by a new study published in Nature. The speed and causes of deadwood decomposition were investigated at 55 forest sites on six continents. Dr. Andreas Hemp and Dr. Claudia Hemp from the University of Bayreuth investigated deadwood decomposition in different climatic zones on Mount Kilimanjaro.

>> For more information, please refer to the press release of the University of Bayreuth: https://www.uni-bayreuth.de/en/university/press/press-releases/2021/120-deadwood-kilimanjaro/index.html

>> Publication: Seibold et al.: The contribution of insects to global forest deadwood decomposition. Nature (2021). DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03740-8.

August 27, 2021

Award: Katrin Böhning-Gaese, speaker of Kili-SES, receives this year’s German Environmental Award

The Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU) is awarding this year’s German Environmental Award totaling 500,000 Euros to two internationally renowned individuals for outstanding achievements in their scientific disciplines to protect species, the climate and the environment: Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese for her cutting-edge research on the importance of biodiversity for the planet and humans, and Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans Joosten for his decades of scientific work on peatlands as climate protectors – and the serious consequences of peatland drainage for global warming. “The German Environmental Award 2021 should be a signal: We only have one earth. And we must treat the diversity of life with care,” said DBU Secretary General Alexander Bonde. “The two award winners have made an outstanding contribution on this.” The DBU’s German Environmental Award will be presented by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on October 10 in Darmstadt.

Source: Press release of Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU), in German; Translation: DeepL, Mathias Templin

August 26, 2021

Publication: New study demonstrates significant carbon storage in African mountain forests

The tropical mountain forests of Africa store more carbon per hectare in their above-ground biomass than all other tropical forests on earth. With this great storage capacity, which was previously estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be considerably lower, they have made a major contribution to climate protection. This is the conclusion of a study published in Nature by an international network of researchers who are urging for the preservation of these carbon-rich ecosystems. Dr. Andreas Hemp from the University of Bayreuth and his team investigated carbon stocks in the mountain forests of Kilimanjaro.

>> For more information, please refer to the press release by the University of Bayreuth: https://www.uni-bayreuth.de/en/university/press/press-releases/2021/114-carbon-montane-forests/index.html

>> Publication: Aida Cuni-Sanchez et al.: High aboveground carbon stock of African tropical montane forests. Nature (2021). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03728-4

April 26, 2021

Virtual Kili-SES Kick-off Meeting

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic our Kick-off Meeting unfortunately had to take place virtually. The goals of this meeting were to familiarize the new PhD students and PostDocs with the overall research questions, the research design and methodology of Kili-SES and to faciliate the communication between the natural and social sciences.

March 31, 2021

Publication: New “Field Guide to Bushcrickets, Wetas and Raspy Crickets of Tanzania and Kenya” by Claudia Hemp

This new field guide covers northern to central Tanzania, southern Kenya, and parts of central Kenya. For species-rich genera, morphological details are provided, together with keys to genera and species as well as distribution maps for most taxa. The enclosed DVD features the songs of 185 species.

>> For more information see publications page https://kili-ses.senckenberg.de/en/publications/literature/