Biodiversity in Sierra Leone: Research to Identify “Biodiversity Hotspots” which Deserve Urgent Protection
Project location: SIERRA LEONE
Project start date: January 2013 - Project end date: March 2013
Project number: 2012-103
Beneficiary: Università degli Studi dell’Aquila Dipartimento di Medicina Clinica, Sanità Pubblica, Scienze della Vita e dell’Ambiente
Sierra Leone is very important in understanding the natural history of the African continent because within its present boundaries it is found the limit of the tropical rainforest; the forest border has repeatedly swung, thus giving rise to speciation phenomena, which are very important for the study of evolution. Moreover, in this country are found the highest mountains of the West Africa (Loma Mts., 1947 m), where several endemisms can be found. However, many groups of organisms are still very little known, especially those of small size: for example, it is believed that less than 10% of the species of insects has been described so far. This information is running the risk of going lost because of the dramatic destruction of the environment caused by mining for gold and diamonds and because of forest destruction for timber and for reclaiming land to agriculture.
One of the goals of the research it to identify a few "biodiversity hotspots" which deserve urgent protection. Such areas are at present true "lifeboats" for very many animal and plant species, which are destined to disappear within a short time in the absence of any action because of the destruction of the environment. These areas will be "banks of biodiversity" for the future. The protection of the natural environment, especially of forests, is very important also for the stability of climate and conservation of water resources; it should not be forgotten, as an example, that one of the most important rivers of the whole African continent, the Niger river, is born in Sierra Leone.
Field research will be carried out mainly in the very few forested areas remaining in the country. The biodiversity of these areas will be valued directly on the ground and also by the collection of samples, which will be studied in the laboratory by various scientists. Particular attention will be paid to the organisms which can be utilized as "flag species" in conservation programs, and also to the organisms which are known as indicative of environmental quality.
This project received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation. It aims at achieving the following goals.
Scientific research. Previous research in Sierra Leone made it evident that the knowledge of the biodiversity in this country is very scarce. These researches, supported by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, resulted in the description of more than 300 new species of fungi, algae, crustaceans and insects, most of which appeared in four books published by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei with the title: "Ricerche biologiche in Sierra Leone".
During a very recent journey (January 2012) more new species were collected, making it evident that more research will bring to the discovery of many new species.
Autori vari, 1982 - Ricerche biologiche in Sierra Leone. Accad. Naz. Lincei, Quaderno 255.
Autori vari, 1986 - Ricerche biologiche in Sierra Leone. Parte II. Accad. Naz. Lincei, Quaderno 260.
Autori vari, 1990 - Ricerche biologiche in Sierra Leone. Parte III. Accad. Naz. Lincei, Quaderno 265.
Autori vari, 1994 - Ricerche biologiche in Sierra Leone. Parte IV. Accad. Naz. Lincei, Quaderno 267.
Conservation. During more than 10 years of civil war the country has been deprived of his natural resources without any control. At present, the government is studying the way of protecting what has remained and is looking to the international organizations for obtaining financial support. With no doubt scientific studies pointing out the importance of the biodiversity of Sierra Leone will solicit the government in protecting his natural resources and will make it easier the research of funds for this policy.