MONTANE GRASSLANDS OF THE UDZUNGWA PLATEAU, TANZANIA: A STUDY CASE ABOUT ITS HERPETOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE WITHIN THE EASTERN AFROMONTANE HOTSPOT, pp. 179-200
Authors: (Roberta Rossi, Raffaele Barocco, Sebastiano Salvidio, Michele Menegon, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy, and others)
Abstract: The Udzungwa Mountains are part of the Eastern Afromontane hotspot, one the 34 biodiversity hotspots in the world. Moreover, they are part of the ancient chain of crystalline blocks named "Eastern Arc" that represents one of the most important areas of Africa in terms of endemic animal and plant species. However, in the Eastern Arc, while forests have been widely investigated and are often safeguarded by the institution of protected areas, montane grasslands have received little attention yet, in terms both of biological research and of conservation, and are threatened by rapidly expanding of cultivations and timber plantations. The present study is aimed to improve knowledge about the composition of Amphibian and Reptile communities of two sites in the southern part of the Udzungwa plateau. The field research was carried out from December 2004 to January 2005 by means of VES and pitfall traps with drift fences, and also by opportunistically searches. The check-list of the first site (placed near Bomalang'ombe village) updates and integrates the preliminary data collected and published by Menegon et alii (2006). The check-list of the second site (placed near Mapanda village), on our knowledge, represents the first herpetological check-list for the area. On the basis of the species accumulation curves, species richness estimates and effort simulations run for each site, the Bomalang'ombe check-list seems to characterize the community of the area satisfactorily in the considered season, while the Mapanda check-list has to be considered preliminary. However, both study sites exhibit a biological value worthy of attention by the conservation point of view, since both of them show the occurrence of taxa strictly endemic or near-endemic to the Eastern Arc (in some cases endemic to the Udzungwa block and also strictly endemic to the site that represents the type locality) and the occurrence of at least one species vulnerable to the extinction threat. Finally, the occurrence of highly specialized grass-dwelling species suggest that the montane grasslands of the Udzungwa have a long evolutionary history, therefore deserving more scientific and conservation efforts.