Mount Lico – The Hidden Rainforest

Mount Lico is a volcanic formation, located deep within the jungles of northern Mozambique. It’s foreboding, picturesque and seemingly unclimable.

This proved to be too much of a temptation to a group of scientists, who decided to investigate a little further, resulting in a shocking discovery.

Researchers studying the area were amazed to find what seemed to be a hidden rainforest located on top of the mountain. It was when Julian Bayliss was on Google Earth several years ago, that he first saw the outline of the mysterious forest. This led to a subsequent investigation, strategy and expedition to scale and report upon the hitherto unseen delights which lurked beneath the canopies.

Known to locals for years, this was the first attention that the mountaintop hideaway had received by outsiders. The aim of their mission was, not only to retrieve data, but to highlight the threat which such areas face from deforestation, industrialisation and habitat removal.

We recently visited the 700 metre-high mountaintop rainforest in an expedition organised by Bayliss, in collaboration with Mozambique’s Natural History Museum and National Herbarium,” Bayliss told The Conversation.

“As well as exploring Mount Lico, the expedition was the first to undertake a biological survey of nearby Mount Socone. Every bit as majestic and species rich as the iconic Lico, Socone highlights the threat faced by many forests in Mozambique, Africa and elsewhere. Globally, one football pitch worth of forest is lost every second, driving countless species to extinction. The removal of trees from mountain slopes also leads to soil erosion, flooding in the wet season and water shortages in the dry season.” – Scientist / Explorer Julian Bayliss

Tech and Science site The Verge conducted a mammoth interview session with 22 of the scientists who were involved with the expedition last May:

For two weeks this past May, Bayliss, Matimele, and a “dream team” of scientists finally convened in the mountains of Mozambique. They set up three camps: a base camp, a satellite camp atop Lico, and another camp at nearby Mount Socone, where, in recent years, farmers have been clearing the rainforest at an alarming rate. The expedition included two of the world’s top climbers, who taught the scientists, on the fly, how to scale the rock face of a mountain; a chef; three Mozambican scientists, who documented the wildlife and plants; a trip logistics planner; a medical doctor; experts in everything from carbon dating to small mammals; and an 84-year-old butterfly specialist with a fondness for whiskey.” – The Verge

The team braved a steep plummet, as they scaled their way to the top of the volcano. One of the biggest surprises came, however, when it transpired that they hadn’t been the first to set foot within the treacherous terrain. As well as discovering ancient artifacts, the team also unearthed a number of new species, including a new species of pygmy chameleon.

You can read the full accounts of the mission at The Conversation and as part of The Verge‘s longread.

Colin J McCracken

Colin J McCracken is a content designer, editor and writer from Ireland. Giving form and function to the My Good Planet vision, it has been his role to design and develop the online platform, content and presence of the project.

  1. Mozambique still holds so many surprises for scientists, travelers and other visitors. Just need to clarify that, while granite domes, such as Monte Lico, just one of hundreds in this area of Mozambique, have a volcanic, or igneous origin, it is certainly not a volcano. Batholiths that formed kilometres underground millions of years ago due to cooling magma, have gradually been partially exposed due to tectonic shifts and surface erosion. So Lico is vastly different to what most folks would see as a volcano that currently, or once in the past, spewed out molten rock.


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