A whole new world: Untouched forest explored in Moz

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A whole new world: Untouched forest explored in Moz

A group of scientists has just returned from a unique chance to document a pristine ecosystem

Journalist

It’s like a time capsule from mother nature’s own special collection: an untouched rain forest in the crater of an ancient volcano atop a sharp-rising mountain.
This is Mount Lico: a newly discovered rainforest in Mozambique that has just been carefully explored for the first time ever by a team of scientists from more than 13 universities.Though they cannot reveal yet what species have been found up there, they recently completed a 10-day expedition which had them painstakingly ascending a near-perpendicular cliff face of around 125m (of the full 700m drop).
This gem was discovered two years ago by Dr Julian Bayliss, and he then had to put together the most suitable team to embark on an expedition which just finished a few days ago.Unlike explorers from the days of yore who would have to travel vast distances in flimsy ships and pick their way across rugged landscapes far from home, Bayliss instead went down the digital rabbit hole that is Google Earth – and voila. There it was: a perfectly preserved rainforest on a small piece of land that points upwards like a finger.Bayliss, from Oxford Brookes University, said this week that Lico could be one of the most pristine forests on earth.He should know: he is the same man who discovered Mount Mabu, an ancient rainforest that sits at an altitude of 1,700m. 
If Mabu is anything to go by, Lico is likely to offer up some mindblowing gems.
From a pygmy chameleon, to a tropical mistletoe, to a bush viper, Mabu’s altitude and isolation made sure it preserved species that had not been seen by human beings before in the modern world.Added to that is the fact that rainforests contain about half the known species of life and are the oldest living biomes, according to The Guardian.
They also store more carbon for longer than any other living system.
Jeff Barbee, writing for The Guardian, has given us a small taste of what might emerge from Lico in our neighbouring country.
He describes how Vanessa Muranga, a marine biologist from Mozambique’s Natural History Museum, stood holding two fish wrapped in gauze when she said to him: “It’s so exciting when you find something that might be new.”
Her job is to catalogue any potentially new species of fish.That is just one type of expertise that was required on this expedition through a landscape with seemingly endless biodiversity.
Dr Simon Willcock from Bangor University in Wales, who was also on the recent expedition, was quoted in The Guardian as saying that “undisturbed forest is incredibly rare” and that he knew of no other rainforest in Africa that scientists could confidently say had not been disturbed by human beings.“It’s a unique site,” he said.
Now the waiting game for the rest of us begins: the scientists will have to scale an academic mountain the size of the physical one they have just climbed.
And then, one day hopefully not too long from now, their findings will be published in journals for all the world to see.

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