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Sao Tome and Principe - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Located in the Gulf of Guinea, off the west coast of Central Africa, the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe supports a very high level of endemism, particularly in terms of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, mollusks and flora, in relation to its small land area. The international scientific community has classified the tropical rainforest of Sao Tome and Principe second among Africa’s 75 forests, in terms of importance for bird conservation (57% of the country’s 49 bird species are endemic). At present, 3 bird species are threatened with extinction, namely, the Woodcock (São Tomé ibis), the Shrike São Tomé (Lanius newtoni) and the Anjolô (Neospiza concolor).

Ecosystems are also very diverse, particularly with respect to forest formations, ranging from savannah near the coast to cloud forests at mountain peaks. Primary and secondary forests are notably of high quality and relatively well conserved. The country is heavily reliant on agriculture, with cocoa as the main export commodity providing 90% of export earnings. Both cocoa and coffee are produced in shaded forests. Noble tree species, such as Milicia excels (amoreira), Ficus sidifolia (Figo porco) and Albicia falcataria (Acacia) are currently threatened. This situation was produced inadvertently through a land reform initiative begun in the late 1990s. In an attempt to reduce the level of poverty, national authorities decided at this time to distribute parcels of land from large agricultural enterprises to small-scale farmers. This however had the opposite intended effect and worsened the state of forest ecosystems, as these farmers did not have the financial means to develop agriculture and as a result began to exploit rare tree species of higher commercial value.

Sao Tome and Principe is particularly vulnerable to the hazardous effects of climate change which has the potential to significantly affect the future well-being of the population. For example, changing rainfall patterns and predicted hotter temperatures present worrisome scenarios for the production of cocoa, as well as corn, important to livestock production (especially poultry). A vulnerability study carried out on the livestock sector moreover concluded that an increase in temperature causes a proliferation of parasites harmful to animal metabolism.

Almost a quarter of the workforce is employed in artisanal fisheries with potential fish production estimated at around 8,500 tons per year in coastal pelagic species and around 3,500 tons per year in demersal species. With regard to industrial fishing, Sao Tome and Principe is limited to issuing fishing licenses within the framework of a protocol signed with the European Union. Yet fish resources have deteriorated due to lack of control on activities being carried out by foreign companies. In addition, studies on the future climate of Sao Tome and Principe concluded that the expected temperature increase of 2.25 degrees Celsius on the 2040-2060 horizon will further deplete marine resources in the region. Satellite imagery confirms that, over the 1958-2010 period, 20 meters of coastline were eroded mainly due to sea-level rise, turbulent maritime activity and to mismanaged exploitation of coastal biodiversity.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The main pressures include: habitat loss and degradation resulting from large-scale agricultural development, infrastructure development, subsistence agriculture, exploitation of wood resources, palm wine operations; disturbance from hunting, snail harvesting and deforestation; the impact of alien invasive species; predation by introduced species; misuse of chemical products; and the degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems. Indirect drivers are linked to socioeconomic development processes and the impacts of climate change.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Developed in 2004, Sao Tome and Principe’s first NBSAP contained 3 general objectives: promote actions for reinforcing in situ and ex situ conservation of biodiversity; reinforce the institutional and legal framework for biodiversity; and prepare a strategy for the creation of ABS mechanisms addressing both the national and international levels of this issue. Under this framework, specific objectives and strategic directions were also defined, along with associated actions.

In 2014, ten years after the implementation of the first NBSAP, Sao Tome and Principe concluded that the outcomes of implementation are both acceptable and positive, in spite of the fact that it was not possible to carry out a number of actions. NBSAP successes are highlighted in the next sections.

Sao Tome and Principe is currently in the process of updating its NBSAP with completion anticipated in 2015. The new document will be implemented by all concerned sectors and emphasize the integration of biodiversity conservation in all national development policies.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

A campaign to raise awareness on the Nagoya Protocol (which the country expects to ratify) was conducted in 2014. An atlas on threatened species of flora and fauna has also been developed to communicate the importance of biodiversity conservation.

A legal framework has been developed to encourage the development of renewable energy sources, and techniques promoting the use of materials other than wood for the construction of homes are being promoted.

A climate change adaptation project is currently being carried out in coastal areas to assist vulnerable communities. Activities include the introduction of tree species that adapt well to the coastal zone. A large number of community members are contributing to the project by identifying suitable species, establishing nurseries and planting trees.

To address the uncontrolled exploitation of coastal sands, used particularly in the construction industry, studies have been undertaken on the potential of using submarine sands and conducting environmental impact assessment (EIA) for these purposes.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

In 2006, the Obõ Nature Parks were created which occupy about 30% of the country’s surface. Notably, in 2012, the island of Principe was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve which has had a direct impact on protecting and conserving biodiversity, as exemplified with respect to populations of some endangered species, such the gray parrot and turtle, that have begun to increase and stabilize. Another breakthrough in the legal framework has been the adoption of the Act for the Protection of Marine Turtles.

Sao Tome and Principe is advancing in regard to the establishment of its REDD+ policy. Various related projects have been implemented to date, one outcome being the development of the Readiness Preparation Proposal (RPP).

In collaboration with BirdLife International, an action plan has been developed detailing a series of activities to be implemented in the short, medium and long terms for three species on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered, namely, the Woodcock (São Tomé ibis), the Shrike São Tomé (Lanius newtoni) and the Anjolô (Neospiza concolor).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

For better monitoring of NBSAP implementation, a monitoring and evaluation mechanism has been put in place. Indicators have been established to measure results that are reported by various institutions assigned primary responsibility for implementing activities.

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  • United Nations Environment Programme