The highlands of west-central Angola are of great biogeographic interest as they harbour species that are relicts of past climatic conditions that favoured a wider distribution of a cool moist forest biome. Only a few patches of forest remain, isolated on the protected slopes of mountains in Benguela, Huambo and Huíla Provinces. The best remaining example of these forests is on Mount Moco, in the Luimbale district, where there are at least 15 patches ranging in size from 1 ha to 15 ha in deep ravines. No specific climatic data are available for the area, but the site is within the 1,400 mm isohyet.The dominant trees in the remnant forest patches include Podocarpus, Polyscias, Apodytes, Pittosporum, Szygium and Halleria, with canopy heights seldom exceeding 8 m. Huntley and Matos (1994) note that epiphytes are less abundant on the trees than they are on the trees of similar forest communities elsewhere. Short grasslands with scattered trees and shrubs surround the forest patches. Tree and shrub genera include Protea, Cliffortia, Phillipia, Cyathea, Stoebe and Lobelia, while grass genera include Monocymbium and Festuca (Huntley 1974a).
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. A total of 221 species have been collected at Mount Moco, including three species of global conservation concern—Macronyx grimwoodi is frequent in moist grassland, while Francolinus swierstrai is uncommon, and Xenocopsychus ansorgei is common on rocky outcrops. The latter two species have restricted ranges, as do Dioptrornis brunneus and Nectarinia ludovicensis, which are both frequent in the area and probably breed.The site qualifies for both Afrotropical Highland and Zambezian biome-restricted species, and four species of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome also occur. The Afrotropical Highland avifauna has strong affinities with the avifaunas of other remote Afromontane forests, and is characterized by numerous subspecific endemics that are restricted to Mount Moco (Huntley and Matos 1994), e.g. Oenanthe monticola nigricauda. At least five species—Schoutedenapus myioptilus, Apus sladeniae, Caprimulgus poliocephalus koesteri, Apaloderma vittatum, Batis margaritae margaritae—have been recorded in Angola only on Mount Moco, while Pseudoalcippe abyssinica ansorgei is known from only two other sites (Calandula and the Luachimo river).Other species that occur, and that are part of isolated populations in Angola, include Columba arquatrix, Anthus lineiventris, Sheppardia bocagei, Cisticola aberrans, Apalis cinerea, Calamonastes undosus, Muscicapa adusta and Malaconotus viridis. Two rare and localized species, Ploceus nigrimentum, presumed resident in savanna woodland in the highlands of Huambo and Cuanza Sul, and Euplectes gierowi, that has been collected west of this site, could both occur in suitable habitats (see Mombolo, AO018).
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammal species may include Cephalophus sylvicultor (LR/nt), but is probably extinct in these forests, according to Huntley (1974b).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
A protected area of c.60 km² was proposed by Huntley (1974), but was not established (Huntley and Matos 1994). No research projects are currently in progress at Mount Moco, as far as is known. Threats to the avifauna in the 1970s included logging, clearing and burning (and probably frequent runaway fires) and the remaining forest patches were rapidly shrinking (Huntley 1974b). Current threats to the biodiversity are not known.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mount Moco. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 31/05/2020.