Mozambique has an abundance of natural resources. About 70% of the Mozambican territory (54.8 million hectares) is covered by vegetation of different categories, of which 40.1 million hectares (51%) are forests and about 14.7 million hectares covering 19% of the country correspond to woody formations (shrubs and shifting forests). The country is home to a diversity of fauna, especially small ones. Mozambique's ecosystems are grouped into 4 main categories: (i) terrestrial ecosystems, (ii) marine ecosystems, (iii) coastal ecosystems, and (iv) inland water ecosystems. These ecosystems create habitats that encompass a variety of flora and fauna species, many of which are endemic to the region. The state of conservation of ecosystems is critical; most of them need additional efforts to move to the well protected category .
Marine and coastal ecosystems cover an area of approximately 572,000 km² (42% of the Mozambican territory). Coral reefs cover about 1,890 km², seagrass about 439 km² and mangroves about 2,956 km², of which 261.3 km² are actually in protected areas (Bosire et al., 2016). These ecosystems support over 900 species of fish, 122 species of shark and rays, over 900 species of mollusks, 27 species of mammals, 5 species of turtles, over 250 species of soft and hard corals, 14 species of seagrass, 10 species of mangroves, 82 species of crustaceans and 63 seabirds (MITADER, 2018) .
The Mozambican population depends on biodiversity and ecosystem services for their livelihoods and depends on these resources to ensure their social, environmental, and economic well-being .
Mozambique has a rich flora with over 6000 plant species, of which, over 300 plant species are on the IUCN Red list and 22% are endemic. The terrestrial fauna is rich as well, with 726 bird species, 171 reptile species, 85 amphibian species (of which 28 are endemic) and 3075 insect species . By 2021, 29 Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) have been identified and delineated, covering a total area of about 139,947.05 km2 with 25 (86%) covering an area of 134,019.16 km2 on land and 4 (14%) covering 5,927.89 km2 in the marine environment. The terrestrial KBAs covers 17% of Mozambique’s continental territory and the maritime 1% of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (ZEE) .
As part of the Eastern Africa Ecological Region, Mozambique hosts the second longest extension of mangroves in Africa and the only viable population of dugongs for the whole Indian Ocean .
Loss of biodiversity and habitat fragmentation are key issues for Mozambique due to continued over-exploitation of biodiversity and habitat. Furthermore, the number of threatened species has been increasing over time with increased reports of human-animal conflicts, especially regarding crocodiles, lions, elephants and hippos, with 265 people killed and 82 people injured between 2006 and 2008; and of damage to agriculture caused by hippos and elephants .
The main threats to biodiversity in Mozambique are conversion, loss, degradation and fragmentation of natural habitats, overexploitation of species, invasion by non-native species that harm ecosystems and native species, contamination of natural habitats/species and climate change .
More specific threats to fauna include hunting, uncontrolled fires and the destruction of habitats, while threats to flora are vegetation clearing, slash-and-burn agriculture, increased human settlement and uncontrolled fires .
Mangrove forests are threatened through deforestation, aquaculture and construction of salt pans. Coral reefs are under pressure from coral bleaching and increased fishing and tourism, while seagrasses are affected by siltation as a result of floods, as well as by trampling and destructive fishing techniques .
Key policies and governance approach
The Mozambican institutional framework is very rich and diverse, composed of government institutions (represented from the national to local level), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), national and international civil society organizations, private sector, local communities and their organizations, research and higher education institutions . The Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development (MITADER) is the key institution in implementing the Biodiversity Strategy of the country since coordinates all environmental activity and is the national representative of all environmental conventions ratified by Mozambique. Furthermore, in 2011 the National Administration of Conservation Areas was created (ANAC) under the jurisdiction of MITADER and with the aim of having greater dynamism in the management of conservation areas in Mozambique, by promoting biodiversity conservation initiatives, promoting the sustainable use of protected areas, and establishing partnerships for their development .
The national legal framework is characterized by a variety of instruments governing all activities related to biodiversity, including among others, the Law on the Environment, the Land Law, the Law of Fisheries, the Law of Forestry and Wildlife, the Tourism Law and the Law of Conservation Areas, as well as a series of regulations associated with these laws (e.g. Regulation of Environmental Impact Assessment, Regulation of Forestry and Wildlife and the General Regulation of Fisheries and Maritime Activities) .
The Environment Law (1997) is the main instrument for all environmental activities in Mozambique. Of particular relevance to biodiversity are: (i) Article 4, which discusses the general principles of environmental management, which should be based on rational use and management, enhancement of local knowledge, awareness, integrated vision of the environment, participation wide, equal access, accountability and national and international cooperation; and (ii) numbers 1 and 2 of Article 12 on Biodiversity Protection, which refer, respectively, to the prohibition of all activities against the conservation, reproduction, quality and quantity of biological resources, especially those threatened with extinction and stating that the Government should ensure the appropriate actions for the maintenance and regeneration of species, rehabilitation of degraded habitats and creation of new habitats as well as special protection of plant species threatened with extinction or of the botanical specimen that require special protection .
Another milestone dating 2014 is the new Law of Conservation Areas, of fundamental importance for biodiversity conservation, since it introduces new elements, including: i) a comprehensive categorization of protected areas, in which 10 categories are grouped into protected areas (3 categories), and sustainable use areas (7 categories); ii) it assigns the management plans of protected areas as important as the plans of territorial management, considering the penalty for certain crimes against wildlife; iii) it introduces innovations in resource mobilization; and iv) states that the right to use and benefit from carbon sequestration initiatives in conservation areas and their buffer zones, lies in the management of these areas authorities, and should be marketed in collaboration with public and private entities .
Successes and remaining challenges
Much of Mozambique’s conservation policies are framework laws that only establish the basic ground rules for the use of resources. Some of these framework laws are designed to protect the interests of the poor and are yet to be fully absorbed and implemented  while others need to be updated, consolidated and its implementation strengthened. However, they have a value for the implementation of activities under the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan .
Enforcement of some laws, especially those covering deforestation, is made more challenging by the limited options for energy that are available to people.
Measures to improve the implementation of the CBD convention have been incorporated into the Government's Five Year Plans (PQG) and their PES; PEDDs, PDUTs and sectoral Strategic Plans. For example, the country has been making many efforts to conserve biodiversity through its transverse integration into various national sectoral and inter-sectoral development policies and plans and programs. Biodiversity conservation has been explicitly or implicitly integrated into a number of national development frameworks, including, for example, PEDSA 2011-2020; IIAM Strategic Plan (2011-2015); PARP 2011-2014; National Development Strategy , 2013; National Climate Change Strategy 2013-2025; Agenda, 2025; National REDD + Strategy; ANAC Strategic Plan; Tourism Strategy Action Plan for the Green Economy; Sea Policy and Strategy and Sea Strategy .
The government of the Republic of Mozambique (GRM) is trying to balance its immediate goal of reducing poverty through use of natural resources with longer-term strategies requiring judicious management of resources. Limited domestic funds are leading to heavy reliance on foreign capital and posing difficult choices. It is essential to make some key choices now, at current levels of resource use, before it is too late. The government of Mozambique is aware of this and has made substantial progress in managing natural resources, especially in the last decade. Peace and macroeconomic stability have provided a platform for increasing the use of its natural resources, contributing to economic growth and poverty alleviation .
Initiatives and Development Plans
As part of efforts to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets Mozambique extended the surface of protected areas. The extension included the creation of new national parks, namely Quirimbas National Park, Limpopo National Park and Chimanimani National Park, as well as the creation of reserves covering coastal and marine environments .
Through joint efforts with neighboring countries, Mozambique also supported the creation of new Trans-frontier Conservation Areas (Libombos, Great Limpopo and Chimanimani). Mozambique and South Africa also designated Ponta do Ouro, a marine conservation area .
In Mozambique, the BIOFIN process – working with governments, civil-society, vulnerable communities and private sectors to catalyze investments in nature - was initiated in July 2018, under the institutional leadership of the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development and the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Out of four key BIOFIN expected products, the Policy and Institutional Review (PIR) and the Biodiversity Expenditure Review (BER) have already generated valuable insights on the biodiversity policy and financing in Mozambique, with highly engaged feedback from the national stakeholders. The work on Finance Needs Assessment (FNA) and development of Biodiversity Finance Plan (BFP), is also under progress .
Through its NBSAP 2015-2035, Mozambique aims at: (i) reducing the direct and indirect causes of degradation and loss of biodiversity, (ii) improving the status of biodiversity by preserving the diversity of ecosystems, habitats, species and genes and (iii) improving the benefits sharing from biodiversity and ecosystem services for all sectors of the Mozambican society .
Goals and Ambitions
Mozambique has set itself many targets and goals for the management of its diverse biological resources, including :
- By 2025, adopt and effectively implement policies and
legal instruments for preventing and mitigating the impacts of human activities likely to cause degradation of biodiversity.
- By 2035, reduce by at least 20% the area under degradation or fragmentation of critical ecosystems that provide essential goods and services.
- By 2025, reduce by at least 10% the area of occurrence of invasive species and establish/implement strategies for managing the impacts.
- By 2030, complete the characterization and cataloguing of the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and domesticated animals and their threatened ancestors in natural habitats, including species of socio-economic and/or cultural value and defining strategies for their conservation.
- Continue with the development of a comprehensive national key biodiversity areas assessment, using the 2016 Global Standard to a whole range of biological groups (insects, freshwater fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, plants, ecosystems and marine biodiversity).
- Integrate key biodiversity areas into the country´s National Plan for Territorial Development, as well as its Marine Spatial Planning
- Find alternative energy solutions as a way of protecting forests from harvesting for firewood.