Vegetation mapping in Iona National Park

Three SCIONA students performed field work in Iona National Park during the month of October 2019. This included a vegetation survey in the mountainous area near Iona village. 46 plots were established in five different habitats: mountains, riverbeds, sand plains, hills and rocky areas. About 81 different plant species were recorded in the plots, from which 15 are endemic to the SCIONA study area. Unidentified plant species in the field were collected and taken to the “LUBA” herbarium in Lubango for identification and to be stored there. The vegetation data will be used to create a detailed vegetation map of the area, covering about 100 km².

Due to the extreme drought and the consequent absence of grass, it was observed that browsing by livestock is extreme. This is especially a threat to species from the genera Maerua, Boscia, and Commiphora - of which several species are endemic - as well as to the iconic Welwitschia mirabilis.

The work was realised with the help of two new para-ecologists; Mr Tchafeleni Albano (Thafe) and Mr Mitchitalele Tchundiro (Bimba). Field activities also involved training of the para-ecologists on how to use a GPS, a compass, and how to conduct vegetation sampling.

We would like to thank the park manager Mr Sango de Sá for his assistance as well as the Iona administrator, Mr Aristides António and his staff, for the good reception and provision of a place with electricity where the students could work.

Author(s): Telmo António and Vera De Cauwer