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Welwitschia (Welwitschia mirabilis)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 182519816

Filling the gap of knowledge for a science-based assessment of the conservation status for an iconic species (i.e. Welwitschia mirabilis).

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 182519816) - Welwitschia - Awarded $13,000 on March 04, 2019

Welwitschia mirabilis is recognized as a symbol of the Namib Desert ecosystems, where it also plays a crucial ecological role. Despite considerable attention to the plant, the conservation status of W. mirabilis is largely unknown. Available data indicates highly variable population densities across the species range, with uncommon to rare individuals in the Kunene subrange. A substantial reduction of climatic suitability in northern Namibia by 2050 was predicted as a consequence of climate change and increasing threats from black Aspergillus fungi, ecotourism, domestic livestock, and mining were evidenced.

Main aim of this project is laying the basis for the development of a long-term management plan for this species. To do this, we will address the lack of data in the Kunene subrange, collecting relevant information to fulfill the following secondary objectives:

1. Define the area of occupancy of the species in this remote region. Detailed data on species distribution will allow identifying priority areas for conservation and planning management activities.

2. Clarify demographic trends of the populations. Basic information related to population size, recruitment, mortality rate, and fungal infection will be collected for defining population structure and recent dynamics.

3. Quantify local threats to populations. Effects of intensive browsing on individual plants were reported and mining activities become a larger problem in the last years. Threats to the species are evolving but their effects have not been adequately defined.

4. Assess the current conservation status in the area. An objective assessment of the level of threat inspired to the IUCN criteria will be performed using field-based information.

5. Identify possible effects of climate change. Possible effects of climate change on the species will be detected by analyzing the geographic pattern of response, representing an early warning system for the Namib ecosystems.

All the data collected by this project will be merged with those already available for other populations from other sources to allow: (i) the assessment of the threat level and factors, (ii) the definition of conservation units and priorities, and (iii) the development of a management plan for the long-term conservation.  

Project 182519816 location - Namibia, Africa