Central & Eastern Miombo Woodlands

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Sunset, Lake Kariba, Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe.
© WWF-Canon / Michel TERRETTAZ

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 3 terrestrial ecoregions: Eastern Miombo woodlands; Central Zambezian Miombo woodlands; and Zambezian Baikiaea woodlands.

Covering much of central and southern Africa, the ecoregion is dominated by the Central African Plateau with some portions characterized by flat or rolling hills with local areas of higher relief.

Important in terms of species richness, species found here are typical of Miombo woodlands, and in the southwest, Baikiaea woodlands.

There is a high diversity of large mammals, including populations that make up the well-known East African savanna mammal fauna. In addition, some areas support relatively undisturbed natural communities of these plants and animals. Over 20,000 hartebeest have been recorded in the Selous game reserve.

Size:
1,932,500 sq. km (746,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Grasslands, Savannas, and Shrublands

Geographic Location:
Central and Southern Africa - Angola, Botswana, Burundi, DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Local Species

The word miombo is Bantu for the oak-like trees that characterize these central and eastern African woodlands. Miombo trees grow interdependently with a tree-root fungus that increases their mineral uptake from the soil. Mopane trees can grow to heights of more than 25 meters (80 ft) if the soil is rich, but these adaptable trees can also grow in poorly drained or clay soil.

These unique woodlands are home to many large mammals, including giraffes, elands, rhinos, and the largest population of African elephants (Loxodonta africana).

Among the reptiles are endemics such as the Zaire centipede-eater (Aparallactus moeruensis), Platysaurus maculates, Dalophia luluae, carved worm lizard (Monopeltis scalper), and the Katanga beaked snake (Rhinotyphlops kibarae).

Bird species such as the black-faced waxbill (Estrilda erythronotos), Miombo rock-thrush (Monticola angolensis), and the Miombo pied barbet (Tricholaema frontata) are also found here.

An estimated 8,500 plant species grow in the Central woodlands, about half of which are endemic. Rich in reptiles, the region has 46 endemic species.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana africana), Zimbabwe.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Featured species

The black-faced waxbill (Estrilda erythronotos), part of the family Estrildidae, measures around 13 cm in height and is grey/brown, with a pink throat and black bill and legs. It feeds on the ground or on the wing, mainly on invertebrates and seeds.

Black-faced waxbills are usually monogamous. Nests are built on the branches of trees or shrubs.

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Threats

Much of the ecoregion remains sparsely settled and the resulting human population pressures are minimal, leaving large areas of the habitat relatively intact. Future population growth and associated activities are a potential threat. Areas surrounding large, urban centers such as Lusaka in Zambia have been cleared for farming, ranching, and charcoal production.

African Blackwood trees are heavily harvested to make musical instruments such as clarinets and piano keys, as well as for traditional and tourist-trade carvings. The hunting of bushmeat is a growing problem in this ecoregion, and hunting for rhino horn and elephant ivory has negatively impacted the population of both species.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Sandra MBANEFO OBIAGO
A farmer in Zimbabwe's Nyenyunga Ward carrying home her maize harvest, Gokwe District, Zimbabwe.
© WWF-Canon / Sandra MBANEFO OBIAGO

WWF’s work

WWF’s Miombo Ecoregion Conservation Programme (MECP), aims to deliver a lasting solution to combat poverty in the area. With the ultimate aim of preserving species on the brink of extinction, focused projects will help local people to use local resources, on a sustainable basis, which can relieve the burden of poverty in the longer term.

Specific objectives include:
  1. Establish the resource potential of designated land units and determine which resources should be marketed.
  2. Compile an inventory of community and individual skills and knowledge on the key resources identified and seek to create micro-level partnerships for the exploitation of such skills or knowledge areas.
  3. Promote partnerships with community-based organizations, NGOs, and local-level institutions of resource allocation and control.
  4. Consider various forms of joint or co-management approaches to natural resources.
  5. Ensure that benefits accrue to the poor and that they are used to build their asset base through community-based natural resource management (CBNRM).

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