The park is primarily a system of Rift Valley flood-plain habitats with associated woodlands on higher ground. It follows the upper Shire river (the western boundary) for 30 km, up to the south-eastern shore of Lake Malombe; a northern section (added in 1977) connects it with Mangochi Mountain Forest Reserve (site MW013). Away from the river, the terrain slopes gently eastwards and is interrupted by two groups of hills (highest peak 921 m). The vegetation of the park is a complex of seven main types, the most widespread being tall, monodominant Colophospermum mopane woodland. Riverine habitats include extensive reedbeds, Hyphaene palm-savanna, flood-plain grassland and semi-evergreen thickets of Acacia–Albizia–Diospyros. A savanna woodland of Adansonia digitata, Acacia spp., Albizia harveyi and small clumps of mopane, interspersed with termitaria, lies adjacent to the flood-plain. On the hills Brachystegia–Julbernardia (miombo) woodland dominates. Cutting east–west across the flood-plain are tributary drainage lines fringed with evergreen forest.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. The park has a list of over 380 species. Circus macrourus may winter in small numbers. There are also a few records of Falco naumanni, which is possibly regular on passage, while Gallinago media has been recorded, but its status is unknown. Many aquatic bird species occur, including Gorsachius leuconotus and Ardeola rufiventris, but numbers overall are rather small. Liwonde is the only locality in Malawi where Agapornis lilianae is recorded and is an important site for this lovebird with well over 1,000 individuals occurring in mopane and baobab woodland. It is also the only regular site in the country today for Lybius melanopterus.
Non-bird biodiversity: Vegetation: an epiphytic orchid is almost endemic (Microcoelia ornithocephala; also recorded on the small Sambani Hill to the south).Mammals: the park holds the most important Malawi populations of Kobus ellipsiprymnus (LR/cd) and Hippotragus niger (LR/cd). Reintroduction of Diceros bicornis (CR) and some other species is being undertaken, but the long-term security of the park is far from certain.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Liwonde National Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 23/01/2021.