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The Nyika Vwaza (UK) Trust

Working for environmental & wildlife conservation in Northern Malawi

Research

The Trust is keen to support research into conservation, environmental or socio-economic issues that affect the Nyika National Park and the Vwaza March Wildlife Reserve. In April and October each year the Trust publishes a call for applications from postgraduate students and other suitably qualified persons at universities or other higher education institutions to carry out research into important issues. Applications may be made by suitably qualified independent researchers not attached to any institution. These may be suggested by the Trust or topics identified by others which are subject to evaluation by the Trust. The grants are intended to provide financial assistance towards a project and will not normally be expected to cover all the project costs. Click here to find details of how to apply for a  Research Grant.

The Trustees have identified the following principal ecological threats or research opportunities in the protected areas:

Invasive species

Some of the major issues on the Nyika concern invasive plants such as Rubus ellipticus, Pinus patula and the indigenous bracken fern taking over some of the grassland areas. Some research studies have recently been done on this, but what is still required is to find the determining factors in their spread and how these species might be controlled by management. These topics are elaborated upon in two Conservation Research Notes: 

Conservation Research Note 2 – Bracken CRN 2  and

Conservation Research Note 7 – Extent and Impact of alien invasive plants in Nyika National Park CRN 7.

Completed Research Projects funded by NVT

•  A survey of  alien plants on the Nyika Plateau 2016/7 Author: Andrew Kanzunguze
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Mapping and remote detection of Bracken Fern invasion on the Nyika Plateau   Author: Andrew Kanzunguze
• 
Effects of pine removal on natural grassland regeneration: case of Chilinda Pine Plantation   Author: Sopani Sichinga

 

Fire Management programme

Hot fires cause considerable damage to the environment as they threaten the remaining montane forests and alter the composition of grass species from palatable grasses to coarser, less palatable species. Although controlled burns have been introduced in recent years to protect the remnant evergreen forest areas, lack of resources means that it may not be carried out consistently, leading to uncontrolled fires causing extensive damage. This is more particularly elaborated in the Conservation Research Note 3 – Fire Ecology CRN 3

 

 

 

Bird Studies

We are keen to encourage further studies of bird species believed to be threatened in order to understand more clearly their current conservation status and the possible threats to them. These include vultures, bustards, cranes and swallows. This topic is elaborated more in the Conservation Research Note 4 ‒ Birds CRN 4

Completed Research Projects funded by NVT

Vultures Ecosystem Services Report: the case study of Nyika National Park   Author: Emmanouela Galanou

 

 

Law enforcement

Park management is ill-equipped to control poaching for commercial gain of animal and plant species, in particular orchid species unique to the Nyika. The Trustees are keen to encourage the involvement of local communities in the protection of endangered species of plants and animals for conservation and for benefit to their communities. Please see:

Conservation Research Note 1 ‒ Orchid Harvesting CRN 1 and

Conservation Research Note 6 Human Wildlife Conflict: Social Inclusion and  Economic Enhancement in Protected Area Buffer Zones CRN 6.

 

 

 

Alternative and Improved Livelihoods

Economically and socially viable alternative and improved livelihoods for communities living on the edges of the Nyika National Park and Vwaza Game Reserve that will lead to a reduction in poaching levels for both flora and fauna will be part of any balanced conservation research programme. Alternative and improved livelihoods should reduce poverty levels, increase food security and improve land use practices, as well as increase marketing and sales of wild products from on-farm or community, rather than protected area, lands. Such studies, demonstrations, and related extension activities should lead to a change in the mind-set amongst poaching communities, and provide valid economic alternatives. This topic is elaborated more in the Conservation Research Note 6 – Socio-Economic Impact CRN 6 

 

 

Vwaza Marsh

This area has been far less studied than the Nyika. Although it supports a range of wildlife, many are there only during the dry season. Determination of the key resources driving this, especially water supplies, are required. Further baseline studies are also needed. See the Conservation Research Note 5 ‒ Vwaza Marsh Biodiversity CRN 5