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Past Research Projects

Past Research Projects

Frontier has complete research projects in the following countries:


Southern Mikea Region (PK32) 2006

Here Frontier-Madagascar was working with IHSM and the WWF Dry Forest Research Programme. The main project involved conducting baseline biodiversity surveys in gazetted forest areas (areas of prohibited forest exploitation activities), developing a biodiversity monitoring system for forest areas and more general areas. Frontier-Madagascar also ran environmental education programmes and was instrumental in developing sustainable livelihoods, training Malagasy personnel for future long-term forest monitoring. The project followed on from the Southern Mikea Biodiversity survey that Frontier-Madagascar conducted. Based on the results and data from that survey the area was given protection. Frontier was given the tasks of zoning (working out what habitats are in the area, their borders and the borders of the protected area), writing the research plan for the next two years, producing education & training plans, and writing a synthesis document of all relevant research.

Baomby Region

Frontier-Madagascar is assisting the development of Joint Forest and Protected Area Management Plans, working with local communities to establish the current resource use and needs. This area has never been studied by scientists and Frontier-Madagascar's work, therefore, is of great scientific importance and will play a key role in guiding future management plans of the area.

The work focuses on habitat mapping and the construction of species inventory lists. Methodologies include extensive biodiversity surveys of birds, butterflies, herptiles and small and large mammals. There is also interaction with local stakeholders, including environmental education programmes and sustainable livelihood options.

This is an exciting new research location with large areas of undisturbed primary dry deciduous forest - very little undisturbed primary forest remains in Madagascar. The sandstone geology creates a unique research opportunity as no reserves of protected, sandstone-based dry deciduous forest exist in Madagascar.


Mozambique Quirimba Archipelago Marine Research Programme 1996-1998

The Society for Environmental Exploration (SEE), under the banner name of Frontier-Moçambique, selected the Quirimba Archipelago as a research site after discussions between the Government of Moçambique's Ministry for Coordination of Environment Affairs. The purpose of the project was to provide information relevant to the formation of a coastal zone management plan, contributing to sustainable development and resource use within the Quirimba Archipelago. The project focused on the 11 most southerly islands of the Archipelago, which cover a distance of roughly 100 km along the coastline of Cabo Delgado Province. The islands form an almost continuous chain separated by narrow channels, extensions of the mainland and embayments. The islands are low-lying (>15m above Chart Datum) and were formed from extended outcrops of coral rag. The vegetation of the islands varies from dense woodland to sparse grassland, with many supporting mangrove stands along their more sheltered shorelines. The survey work was completed between April 1996 and December 1997 by Frontier staff, volunteer research assistants, Moçambiquan participants and visiting scientists from the UK. The survey programme included 32 mangrove habitat surveys, 41 intertidal surveys, 220 fishery survey trips with local fisherman and hundreds of interviews with islanders. In total 1460 survey dives were completed covering 51 survey sites. The results of the surveys showed that the Southern Quirimbas supported a rich diversity of habitat types and of flora and fauna within these habitats. It was thought that the remoteness of the islands, the topography of the region, the past political instability and its associated prevention of coastal development, all combined to create and preserve the islands as an area of national and regional importance in terms of its high biodiversity and extensive marine resources. Based on this research, the Government of Moçambique declared the Southern Quirimbas a National Marine reserve in 2002 and the area is now managed by WWF.


Compared with neighbouring Central American countries Nicaragua still has extensive areas of rainforest and supports populations of animals that have largely disappeared or are endangered elsewhere, including the harpy eagle, the resplendent quetzal and five species of wildcat.

The Central American isthmus is estimated to hold 7% of the world's biodiversity in less than one-half percent of the earth's land area. This high biological richness and species diversity is correspondent to a great variety of landscapes packed into a small area: rugged mountains, lush forest lowlands, coral reefs, coastal mangroves, and large lakes. The isthmus serves as a 'land bridge of the Americas' where plant and animal species of the north and south mingle, with Nicaragua at the heart.

Frontier-Nicaragua's main aim is to combine conservation and development, not only to assess biodiversity, but also sustainably manage the natural reserves and species within them. Work began in 2003, with the Volcán Cosiguina Biodiversity Research Project, based at the Reserva Natural Volcán Cosiguina Ranger Station (RNVC HQ), which forms the northernmost tip of Nicaragua's volcanic chain (part of the "Pacific Ring of Fire") and the most westerly point in Nicaragua. The nature reserve covers a protected area of 12,420 Ha and is mainly comprised of dry deciduous forest. Frontier facilitates management of the reserve by conducting biodiversity surveys; incorporate detailed vegetation, mammal, reptile, amphibian, bird and butterfly data. Initial work was successful and important data collection on flora and fauna populations continue.

In 2005, Frontier expanded this work to include two more nature reserves within Nicaragua; Miraflor, and Estero Padre Ramos in a project entitled Biodiversity Research in Protected Areas of Northwest Nicaragua. The ecological value of these reserves is being assessed, including the impact of biodiversity loss, identification of endangered species and monitoring and evaluating biodiversity in coastal, mangrove and forest areas.

An important part of Frontier's work in Nicaragua is to train and educate local people to engage in conservation initiatives.

This was made possible through a Darwin Initiative grant, which funded the Capacity Building for Sustainable Management of the Nicaraguan Pacific North Region project in 2005. The project was, and continues to be, highly productive; implementing training programmes in conservation skills and monitoring techniques for local and regional institutions. The project specifically trained local NGO staff in sea turtle monitoring and beach patrolling. A multi-species sea turtle hatchery was also set up for the protected olive ridley, loggerhead and green turtles, resulting in a 56.55% hatching success rate; this is above the average for natural conditions.

Training of national park staff and local students in biodiversity survey techniques, patrolling and law enforcement was also achieved, along with environmental education classes in schools and local communities. This is made possible by Frontier's partnership with the regional NGO's which manage the reserves within Nicaragua, including; SELVA (La Asociacion somos Ecologistas en lucha por la vida y elambiente), LIDER (Luchadores Integrados al Dsearrollo de la Region), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua-Leon (UNAN-Leon), and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA). rom this training, a tailor-made BTEC in Conservation Management was produced, which is now used to continue to instruct local wardens and volunteers on several Frontier projects worldwide, allowing them to learn new skills and gain a qualification.

Recently, Frontier-Nicaragua has begun a new project, locating nest sites and monitoring populations of the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao); a large parrot with colourful plumage, often poached to be sold illegally as exotic pets. The conservation status of Scarlet Macaws is unstable due to logging in forest fragments and poaching threats. Furthermore, suitable nesting sites are naturally rare within the forest, and reproductive rates are also low. The loss of available nesting sites will have a huge negative impact on these magnificent birds, so Frontier aims to assess current populations, and find potential nesting sites to curb the population decline. Frontier-Nicaragua has also been monitoring bird species in the natural reserves since 2004, building up a wealth of data to establish migratory bird flight patterns to the area each year.

Waste management within tropical developing countries is often poorly coordinated, if at all. In 2008, Frontier-Nicaragua began working on an environmental education programme with local villages, to raise awareness about the importance of rubbish disposal in rural areas, and the health and safety benefits a waste scheme would bring about. The aim is to establish a sustainable waste management system, which will minimize health problems and habitat destruction within rural areas.


The Forgotten Coastal Forests of Mtwara: A Reconnissance to Prioritise Biological Knowledge for Community Conservation Initiatives 2005

In order to increase the knowledge of the area, Frontier-Tanzania begun a programme of surveys in this area so that effective management plans can be implemented. The aim of the Community Conservation Initiatives project was to safeguard biodiversity of the coastal forests of Tanzania without compromising the current coastal communities' livelihoods. The data collection was accomplished by conducting rapid biodiversity assessments, collating species lists and liaising with local communities to gather indigenous knowledge of species, resources and forest sites in the eight forest reserves in the region. The project was funded by CEPF and was conducted in conjunction with The University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania; Forest and Beekeeping Division; Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania.

Uluguru Biodiversity Assessment Project 2004-2005

This project was located in the Uluguru Mountains, part of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, and aimed to assess the biodiversity and resource usage of the Uluguru North and Uluguru South Catchment Forest Reserves. This study was a component of the Uluguru Environmental Management and Conservation Project (UMEMCP), an initiative of the Forest and Beekeeping Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, funded by the Global Environment Facility through the United Nations Development Programme. The overall aim is to improve forest management and conservation of catchment forest reserves in the Ulugurus, as well as improve land husbandry practices in adjacent villages with local communities and government authorities.

Frontier Tanzania was contracted to carry out the initial field surveys that are needed before management strategies can be developed and implemented. This was achieved by conducting baseline biodiversity surveys on the flora and fauna, assessing species richness and diversity. Baseline forest disturbance surveys were conducted to quantify the threats faced by the forest, and also information on the natural resource usage by the local people.

UCBS recorded 277 flora species from Uluguru South FR, with 206 species recorded from 53 vegetation and regeneration plots and 71 species from opportunistic surveys. Of these, 9% are strict Uluguru endemics and 12% are Eastern Arc endemic and near endemic species. 7% of species are listed as threatened by IUCN. Invasive species noted within the FR are Rubus spp. (spreading on western slopes and Lukwangule plateau, preventing regeneration of trees) and Maesopsis eminii. Both favour disturbed areas with gaps and therefore of greatest concern are the west and north parts of the mountains, such as above Tchenzema and Bunduki where most forest disturbance is occurring. Widespread species were recorded at lower altitudes (1600m - 1900m asl) in higher densities, such as Garcinia volkensi, Drypetes gerrardii and Aphloia theiformis. The higher diversity of common species found at lower altitudes can be attributed to the better soil and high rainfall on these sides of the forest reserve.

Out of the known Uluguru vertebrate fauna of 201 species, UCBS recorded 152 species in Uluguru South FR, including an additional 35 species not previously known from the reserve. Of the 152 recorded species, 8% are strictly Uluguru endemics and 19% Eastern Arc endemic or near endemic. 11% of species are listed as threatened by IUCN. Research recorded a low species richness and abundance of large mammals, but small Eastern Arc mammals were abundant, and several endemic and near endemic shrews were found. The Uluguru Mountains have long been recognised as important for forest birds. In a review of key forests for the protection of threatened bird species in Africa (Collar and Stuart 1988), the Uluguru Mountains (including foothills) were ranked fourth among all forests in East Africa (and 16th within the African continent) in terms of conservation value for the protection of threatened and near threatened bird species. Of particular note in this study was the confirmation of the presence of the Tanzanian mountain weaver Ploceus nicolli which was last reported in 1981, and with only three records altogether, it is an elusive species of the Eastern Arc Mountains. It is listed by IUCN as Endangered and the verification of its presence in Uluguru South FR is extremely important.

Human disturbance included all the following:

  • Intensive firewood collection, including strategies such as ring-barking to increase availability, particularly on the western slopes.
  • Fire on Lukwangule plateau, potentially changing the grassland ecology and pushing back pockets of forest; burning occurs yearly.
  • Pit-sawing, mainly for Ocotea usambarensis, on forest edge and along main paths bisecting the forest reserve.
  • Encroachment of shamba into forest reserve at Ng'weme.
  • Hunting with dogs on the western slopes and Lukwangule plateau.
  • Traps for small and large mammals, particularly on the eastern slopes, with major concern for the trapping of rodents.
  • Pet trade of chameleons around Bunduki.
  • Lack of clear forest boundaries, especially on the east side.

The main cause for concern in the Uluguru Mountains is the spread of the Rubus bramble; the threat to Uluguru South is very high and the spread has occurred rapidly within the last five years as its presence was not recorded during the 2000 survey.

This study provides a comprehensive dataset that can be used as a monitoring baseline with which to assess changes over time to the biodiversity values and continuing human resource use in terms of disturbance to the forest. The conservation of the Uluguru forests is crucial to the survival of the endemic species. Uluguru South FR hosts unique grassland at Lukwangule plateau, which is of extreme importance for plant endemism, and pristine montane and upper montane forest. The grassland plateau is threatened by yearly burning whilst the forests are severely threatened by the increasing pressures on natural resources such as firewood and poles resulting from human population growth. With agriculture as the dominant economy in the area, trees have been cleared over time and have forced people to utilise natural resources within the forest reserve. These activities are strictly illegal and legal protection must be enforced, in parallel with creating clear alternatives for the local communities. Realistic management recommendations include active patrols in the reserve by Forest Officers and involving local communities, clear border demarcation by planting boundary trees and / or beacons, and repeating similar studies every five years in order to monitor floral and faunal species.

East Usambara Conservation Area Management Program 1996 - 2002

This project, located in the East Usambara Mountains, part of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, started in 1994 and was completed in June 2002. It was funded by Development Assistance of Finland (FINNIDA) and the Japan Official Development Assistance (JICA) and was a partnership between Frontier Tanzania (a collaboration between the Society for Environmental Exploration and the University of Dar es Salaam) and the Forestry and Beekeeping Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The aims of the project were to implement a programme of biological surveys, ecological monitoring and training. This was achieved by conducting a field-based programme involving the training of government staff from the East Usambara Catchment Forest Project (EUCFP) in standardised survey and monitoring techniques developed for tropical forests in East Africa. Co-ordinating a programme of baseline biodiversity surveys in selected forests of the East Usambara Mountains, in conjunction with the Faculty of Science of the University of Dar es Salaam, was also a priority. Assistance to EU conservation programmes (EUCAMP) was provided for the conservation of the Usambara Mountains.

Overall, the operation was a real success: over 25 EUCFP staff received training in forest habitat and species assessment, and in the applied use of this information for ecological monitoring; and a manual containing biodiversity survey techniques for key taxonomic groups for future EUCFP personnel was produced.

The biodiversity data collected in the ten forests over the six year study is the most detailed and comprehensive data set ever produced, and helped indicate that the East Usambara Mountains was a biodiversity hotspot, and was used in the development of a management plan.

Analyses of fauna, flora and a description of the forest were carried out in each of the ten reports. All parts of the reserves were surveyed systematically at a 0.25% sampling intensity for the vegetation survey, the zoological survey focused on five trapping sites. The reports provide an inventory of the trees, shrubs, herbs, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and butterflies recorded during the survey, and describe patterns of human disturbance within the reserve.

Summary of East Usambara Forest Reserves Surveyed

  Semdoe Segoma Amani Nilo Mlinga Mgambo Bombo
Conservation Value Significant as a corridor Significant as habitat for endemic and threatened species Significant as habitat for endemic and threatened species Diversity of different habitats help this area be species rich Average conservation value but has mosaic of different habitats Low. Made up of patches of different habitats Low conservation value: open woodland and lowland forest

Floral species richness Not particularly rich. One tree species endemic Above average botanical species richness Above average botanical species richness Above average botanical species richness 9 endemic plants
many non forest dwelling species
1 endemic plant species 5 near-endemic plant species

Faunal species richess 1 Endangered
5 Vulnerable
Below average
1 Critically Endangered
3 Endangered
13 Vulnerable
High diversity of reptiles.
7 Endangered
26 Vulnerable
High density of herpetofauna
6 species recorded are endemic to EUM
31 Vulnerable
5 Near Threatened
Above average for mammals and herpetofauna.
Only area with montane patches, home to new species
High diversity of mammals and near endemic herpetofauna High diversity of butterflies and several near endemic amphibians High diversity of mammals and butterflies
4 Vulnerable species

Disturbance or pressure Pole/timber cutting, fire, trapping Pole/timber cutting, pit sawing Pole/timber cutting, fire is a potential threat Fire, grazing, cutting hunting and timber extraction Fire, pole cutting, hunting on small scale Fire, overgrazing, hunting, timber cutting Fire, pole cutting, hunting

Other People concerned with lack of agricultural land       Spiritual value and a good source of medicinal plants High spiritual value and source of medicinal plants Local concern for future of area amongst elders.

Kilombero Valley Biological Surveys 1998-2002

The Kilombero Valley, a major geo-ecological feature in south central Tanzania, is the largest low altitude wetland in East Africa and home to huge numbers of large mammals and 75% of the world's puku antelope, whose numbers are being reduced by poaching and habitat destruction.

Mafia Island Marine Park - Development of a Management Strategy 1989-1995

This project was set up nearly twenty years ago and Frontier has remained working in various locations across Tanzania ever since. Frontier-Tanzania worked alongside the Ministry of Tourism, Natural Resources and Environment, Tanzania, and the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) to set up a participatory management plan for the Mafia Island Marine Park.

In 1995 Frontier-Tanzania succeeded in gazetting the Mafia Island Multi-User Marine Park, following management recommendations and using data from Frontier survey work. The Project has later been managed by WWF Tanzania. Across the six years of this programme, detailed surveying of sub-tidal, inter-tidal and mangrove systems was carried out within the proposed marine park, encompassing fisheries, coral mining and seaweed farming. Extensive surveying into resource use was also achieved. From this, comprehensive maritime charts were created showing habitat maps and marine species distribution and abundance from the collected data surveys. Land-use biodiversity maps, technical reports and scientific papers on the area have since been published. In addition, a programme of public awareness-raising was facilitated through workshops and education. This is essential for local communities to understand the importance of protecting their marine ecosystem, thus helping reduce destructive methods of resource use. In 1991 Frontier-Tanzania participated in a workshop on Mafia Island with fisherman representatives, NGOs and local, regional and national officials. This laid the foundations for gazetting the Mafia Island Multi-User National Park in 1995. Since leaving the site over ten years ago, Frontier-Tanzania has now returned to carry out more biodiversity surveys, identifying the key sites of conservation value. Frontier-Tanzania also hopes to use the project as an example of how marine parks are valuable conservation tools. So far, baseline surveys mapping the coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangroves around Mafia Island have been carried out to compare with results from the previous surveys and observe any improvements in the biological diversity around the island. Further recommendations for the sustainable management of the marine ecosystem are being drawn up with local community interest groups, and awareness-raising within communities is continuing. Local scientists, students and fisheries officers have aided the development and implementation of marine resource monitoring systems. The information gathered is being disseminated to in-country protected area managers, thus enabling improved management strategies and non-destructive resource use in further locations.

Biodiversity research and awareness in the Eastern Arc Mountains

This project is funded by CEPF, and the aim is to achieve successful biodiversity conservation through improving biological knowledge in protected hotspot areas of the Eastern Arc Mountains, assessing levels of anthropogenic threat to these areas, and combining this with capacity building to increase environmental awareness and implement alternative sustainable livelihoods to reduce local communities dependence on endangered natural resources. Biodiversity knowledge is improved through systematic biodiversity surveys of flora and fauna, contributing data to the IUCN Species Red List assessments and the Tanzania Biodiversity Database and Conservation International's Species Outcome Database. Human resource-use assessments and gathering of indigenous knowledge has provided information on the use of the forest natural resources. Results have been compiled in reports and disseminated through workshops. Local community awareness of the significance of their forests has been raised in several workshops conducted in conjunction with WWF-TPO, and training has increased the capacity of forestry officers and community officers.

This research project has so far produced technical reports for the following forest areas:

  • Ulanga District (Sali, Mselezi)
  • Morogoro District (Kanga, Nguru South)
  • Kilosa District (Ikwamba, Mamboto, Mamiwa Kisara, Pala Ulanga)


Kibale National Park Development & Game Reserves Programme 1991-1998

Uganda has an extremely rich and diverse biota within an intersection of six biogeographic zones. The climate is humid, moist and tropical allowing high levels of primary productivity and diversity with many niche and endemic species. This diversity supports 90% of the population, dependent on the natural resources for their livelihoods. Frontier-Uganda was initiated in 1991 and was originally involved in tourism development in Kibale National Park in conjunction with Makerere University, Kampala. In 1993 Frontier embarked on the Frontier-Uganda Game Reserves Programme, in partnership with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and the Makerere University, forming the Frontier-Uganda Wildlife Protected Areas Project. This sparked the beginning of numerous biological and socio-economic surveys in several sites, training local field staff and raising awareness of conservation importance while contributing data to plans for management. A good example is the biological survey of Semuliki Wildlife Reserve in the Rift Valley, Uganda's first gazetted reserve in 1929. During the political turmoil of the 1970's the wildlife population was reduced to dangerously low levels and the game department has since lacked staff and resources to control poaching, resource use and settler encroachment. This study in 1996 was therefore imperative to assess community relationships, resource use and the area's ecological and biological status so that appropriate management strategies could be planned and implemented for the long term conservation of the area and its wildlife. The aims of this project were to estimate the densities of game within SWR by walking randomly placed 2km line transects and assessing local biodiversity by compiling inventories of birds, small mammals, bats, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and dragonflies. The vegetation was also described and habitats were noted to identify changes since previous surveys. A socio-economic study comprising questionnaires and interviews was carried out to assess the relationship between the local people and Semuliki Wildlife Reserve Eight protected areas have been surveyed in this manner by Frontier-Uganda, with the data used to plan and implement management strategies with the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The majority of findings have shown people living in and around the reserves were constrained in their development efforts by poverty and lack of technical knowledge, with reserve staff unable to control encroachment. Many locals had little understanding or appreciation of conservation issues. Community members' immediate requirements for resources mean that prevention is not a possibility and so the focus is to limit negative impact-a suitable start towards community planning for a sustainable future.