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Príncipe Past & Present

A University of Oxford expedition to study the current state of biodiversity as well as historical trajectories of change on the small island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe (STP) which lies off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea. In light of the urgent need to reverse the rapid rate of worldwide biodiversity loss, greater research is needed on important biodiversity hotspots and successful examples of environmental stewardship. Due to its small size and geological origins, STP is rich in biological diversity and provides a unique case study given that human settlement on the island is commonly assumed to have only begun in the late-15th century and the country’s population remains relatively small.  

To date, relatively little quantitative research has been conducted to assess the current state of the environment on São Tomé and Príncipe and the legacy of human-environment interactions. Focusing on the smaller northern island of Príncipe where environmental change is increasingly visible, our project aims to provide contemporary and historical data on the state of selected ecosystems, whilst raising awareness of the importance of sustainable human-environment interactions. By addressing this important knowledge gap, our project will help to inform future strategies that aim to sustainably manage Príncipe’s natural environment.  

The proposed expedition will involve conducting approximately six weeks of fieldwork on Príncipe island, in January-February 2023. Our main local collaboration partner will be a local conservation charity, Forever Príncipe, which members of our expedition team have previously worked with. Contributing to the work of other conservation and research organisations that have worked on the island before, our expedition will have 3 main objectives: (1) provide baseline data and understanding of ecosystems sensitive to environmental change, (2) bring to light the deep-time history of terrestrial environmental change and the legacy of human impact, (3) understand local human-nature interactions and raise international awareness of the importance of Príncipe’s biodiversity and environmental vulnerability. 

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