Great Escarpment Biodiversity Programme

The Great Escarpment Biodiversity Programme aims at addressing massive gaps in biodiversity knowledge of mountainous areas of southern Africa, from Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho to Zimbabwe. It includes studies gathering baseline biodiversity information, the systematics and phylogeography of plant groups and animal groups. The biodiversity of the region’s mountains is poorly known, little documented, and poorly understood, despite the fact that these mountains provide almost all of the region’s water supply.

These studies  are geared towards improving our  understanding of historical processes that have influenced the region’s biota, and contribute to the conservation and management of these regions, as well as developing an understanding of how anthropogenic climate change will impact mountain regions. Understanding montane ecosystem function which can only be done once we know the biodiversity) is essential in developing sound land use practices that ensure long-term sustainability of these regions.

Associated with this regional theme are studies on the macro and micro-evolutionary patterns of taxa associated with these regions. This is done using molecular (DNA-based) tools to determine evolutionary patterns with a view to explaining these in terms of geographic, geological, climatological and biological processes.