Newala District covers most of the Makonde plateau, a raised area inland of Mtwara District and south of the Rondo plateau. To the south, in Mozambique, is an even larger plateau. These blocks are separated only by the narrow valley of the Ruvuma river. The soils of the plateau are light sand, holding virtually no surface water. The plateau is well drained on all sides by numerous streams that cut deep into the sandstone bedrock. Much of the plateau is low-yielding agriculture typified by shifting cultivation with plantations of cashew-nut trees.The only remaining large blocks of (badly degraded) closed-canopy forest cover the northern and southern escarpments. Of the 10 Forest Reserves listed for Newala District, four are included in this IBA; Makonde Scarp I (1,748 ha), Makonde Scarp II (1,554 ha), Makonde Scarp III (1,434 ha) and Mkunya river (4,797 ha). Three others, Liteho (1,400 ha), Mtuli–Ninju (296 ha) and Mniwata (1,736 ha), may also contain areas of natural forest, but are currently excluded. The remainder are solely production forests, unlikely to have any importance for birds.
See Box for key species. There is virtually no information on the avifauna of the Makonde plateau. Circaetus fasciolatus is known from 1995 records from the escarpment. Only one species of the East African Coast biome is known to occur, but more may be expected to do so. If sufficient forest remains the avifauna is likely to be similar to that on the Rondo plateau (TZ051).
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Makonde Scarp Forest Reserve was created to protect a watershed and as an erosion-control measure for the southern highway. However, when visited in 1995, the extent of agricultural invasion was such that without maps it would not have been possible to identify the area as a Forest Reserve. The Mkunya River Forest Reserve was designed to protect the southern escarpment above the Ruvuma river. From a brief visit in 1995, it appeared that this forest too was under threat from agricultural encroachment. The Mkonde plateau is an ideal location for the development of extensive plantations of mvule Chlorophora exselsa.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Newala District Coastal Forests. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 13/08/2020.