Warneckea parvifolia

Scientific Name
Warneckea parvifolia R.D.Stone & Ntetha
Higher Classification
National Status
Status and Criteria
Critically Endangered B1ab(iii)
Assessment Date
H. Matimele, D. Raimondo & J.E. Burrows
An endemic to the Maputaland Centre of Endemism (global EOO 979 km², AOO <500 km²) known from two locations where it is still extant, one in Tembe Elephant Park, KwaZulu-Natal South Africa and the other at Licuati Forest Reserve in Maputo Province, southern Mozambique. It is also possibly still extant at a third location just inland of Bela Vista in southern Mozambique where it was last collected in 1980. Although the South African subpopulation is within a protected area, its habitat is being detrimentally impacted by the concentrated impact of elephants in Tembe (EOO and AOO for South Africa is <80 km²). The main part of the population occurs in Licuati Forest Reserve where there is severe ongoing habitat degradation due to charcoal production. This national status of Critically Endangered is therefore not adjusted following IUCN regional assessment procedures as the subpopulations outside of South Africa are decreasing at a more rapid rate than within South Africa.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Tembe Elephant Park in north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and Licuati Forest Reserve in southern Mozambique (Stone and Ntetha 2013).
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Sand Forest
This species is restricted to "short" Sand Forest in northern KwaZulu-Natal (Stone and Ntetha 2013) and Licuati Thicket in southern Mozambique. Both these vegetation types occur on well drained soils of ancient dune formations occurring inland within 100 km of the coastline. Moisture is obtained mainly from winds that carry coastal moisture, and moisture availability in these systems is restricted to the superficial soil layer to a depth of only 80 cm. Characteristic species within these vegetation types, including Warneckea parvifolia, are shallowly rooted. The soils in these systems are nutrient poor and with limited moisture the characteristic woody species including Warneckea parvifolia are slow growing and long lived.
The subpopulation in South Africa occurs within a protected area and is not likely to be threatened by human activities. However, according to Stone and Ntetha (2013) the impact of overstocking of elephants and small grazers is limiting recruitment and causing degradation of its habitat. In Mozambique the main subpopulation at Licuati is experiencing ongoing degradation of habitat due to charcoal production. Charcoal production involves cutting of thick woody stems, piling these stems and covering them with sand and grass and then igniting these traditional charcoal kilns. In the process of cutting and cleaning large stems many small branches and twigs are left in the forest, these dry out and create a source of fuel for fire. The combination of a seasonal drought, with increased fuel from branches left during charcoal production as well as increased ignition sources from lighting of charcoal kilns is resulting in fires occurring within the Licuati Thicket, a vegetation type that does not naturally burn. During 2015 large areas of Licuati were observed to have burnt, and at this stage, it is not known if this vegetation type can survive and recover from fire. Soil nutrients within the well-drained, nutrient-poor sand forest ecosystem is restricted to a thin layer of organic material at the soil surface, and fires remove these nutrient sources, indicating that charcoal production-related fires are likely to result in severe habitat degradation. Previously disturbed areas around Licuati appear to have permanently shifted to grassy savanna. During field surveys in 2015 and 2016 Warneckea parvifolia was only found to occur in pristine thicket habitat suggesting that it does not tolerate disturbance. Over the past five years Licuati Thicket has become one of the nearest sources to Maputo of woody trees and shrubs for charcoal. With 80% of Mozambique's population depending on charcoal as a source of energy, and all wood to make charcoal coming from indigenous vegetation with little indication of this trend changing (Chavana 2014), further loss and severe degradation of the Licuati Thicket is expected to occur within the next 25 years. The current status of a third location, recorded in 1980 to the west of Bela Vista, is unknown. There has been significant degradation of thicket and coastal forest in this region over the past 30 years. If still extant there, Warneckea parvifolia would only remain in a small, isolated, non-viable thicket remnant.

There are two known subpopulations of this species. At Tembe, the subpopulation size is not known, but Stone and Ntetha (2013) note that plants are locally common around Sihangwane. Population counts in 2015 along roads cutting through the Licuati Thicket in the Licuati Forest recorded 290 individuals. Roads crossing the reserve constitute less than 5% of the total area of thicket, this species is characteristic of Licuati Thicket and occurs throughout the areas where the thicket is still in pristine condition. It is therefore estimated that there are over 3000 individuals at Licuati Forest Reserve. This species was also historically recorded near Bela Vista on the outskirts of Licuati, however most of its habitat has been destroyed at this site, and if still extant here this section of the Licuati subpopulation is likely to be very small. The global population size is suspected to be between 5000 and 10 000 individuals.

Population trend

Chavana, R. 2014. Estudo da cadeia de valor de carvão vegetal no sul de Moçambique (Study of the charcoal value chain in southern Mozambique). Relatório Preliminar de Pesquisa No. 10P. Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique.

Stone, R.D. and Ntetha, N.A. 2013. Warneckea parvifolia (Melastomataceae-Olisbeoideae), a new "sand-forest" endemic from northeastern KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) and southernmost Mozambique, and a phylogenetic analysis of eastern and southern African representatives of W. section Warneckea. South African Journal of Botany 88:317-325.

Matimele, H., Raimondo, D. & Burrows, J.E. 2016. Warneckea parvifolia R.D.Stone & Ntetha. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2017/03/27

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Distribution map

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