A rapid biodiversity assessment of Lesotho’s first proposed Biosphere Reserve: a case study of Bokong Nature Reserve and Tšehlanyane National Park
Keywords:Drakensberg Mountain Centre, MAB Programme, endemics, Red Listed species, UNESCO
Background: Two of Lesotho’s protected areas, namely Bokong Nature Reserve and Tšehlanyane National Park, form the core area of the country’s first proposed Biosphere Reserve. Biodiversity is a key aspect needed to justify nomination of a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme. Previously documented biodiversity of the two protected areas is limited in terms of coverage and scope as well as being outdated. The aim of the current study was to conduct a rapid assessment of the biodiversity, including endemism, of the proposed Biosphere Reserve to inform the formal nomination process.
Methods: A field survey was undertaken over 112 033 ha in the core, buffer and transition zones of the proposed Biosphere Reserve during which species of both flora and fauna were documented. Purposeful recordings were made during different seasons to incorporate various flowering seasons of the plants, as well as faunal species that may hibernate or migrate seasonally.
Results: A total of 380 plant species was recorded, 30 of which are legally protected in the country, 60 endemic to the Drakensberg Mountain Centre, and two species (Aloe polyphylla and Glumicalyx lesuticus) are endemic to Lesotho. The former is the national flower of Lesotho and is under threat due to illegal trade. Sixteen mammal species were recorded, seven of which are legally protected in the country, as well as 53 bird species (including the IUCN Red Listed vulture species, Gyps coprotheres and Gypaetus barbatus). Two fish species were also recorded including Pseudobarbus quathlambae, which is Lesotho’s only known endemic vertebrate species, as well as seven reptile and three amphibian species (two of which are near endemic namely Amietia delalandii and A. vertebralis).
Conclusion: This survey has provided valuable baseline information on the biodiversity (particularly regarding the flora and avifauna) of the proposed Biosphere Reserve, which includes two protected areas namely Bokong Nature Reserve and Tšehlanyane National Park. The findings reflect the biodiversity value of the area and will contribute towards its nomination as Lesotho’s first Biosphere Reserve.
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