With 7.4 billion people on the planet and Earth being 3959 miles around, one would assume that every part of the world is occupied at this point.

Recently, however, a hidden rainforest was discovered in northern Mozambique on top of Mount Lico. Surrounded by a circular wall of rock, the rainforest remains relatively undisturbed.

Locals knew of the mountain of course, but the forest was a well-kept secret until recently.

Professor Julian Bayliss actually discovered the rainforest six years ago via satellite while using Google Earth. However, he only revealed this information to the Western world last year at the Oxford Nature Festival. Given the way the rainforest was discovered, the site is appropriately named the “Google Forest.”

Regarding his discovery of the rainforest, Bayliss stated:

“I’ve discovered over 20 new species to science which include eight butterflies, four chameleons, three snakes, three crabs and two bats along with still having species currently being examined from my expeditions in Malawi and Mozambique.  I have 3 species named after me as a result (2 butterflies and 1 chameleon). Discovering the largest rainforest in southern Africa has to be one of my greatest achievements.”

Bayliss believes that Lico could be one of the most pristine forests on earth. Because of this, he, as well as other scientists, would like for the forest to be protected. Currently, all forests in northern Mozambique are unprotected.

Exploring the sites and finding new species could help to highlight the significance of these areas and the need for their protection.

Unprotected forests are at risk of tree removal. Removing trees leads to soil erosion, flooding in the wet season and water shortages in the dry season.

According to Bayliss, at least one new butterfly species will be identified once genetic testing confirms it. “Every new discovery helps make the case for the mountain to be officially protected,” he says.

Researchers also found one of the rarest animals on Earth on top of the 700-meter-high mountaintop. The animal is called a Caecilian; it is best described as a cross between a reptile and an amphibian.

The discovery of Lico is monumental not just from an ecological and scientific standpoint, but it could also bring more tourists to the region and boost the local economy.

 

Human Interaction

 

Bayliss and other researchers are not the first humans atop Lico. While it is one of the least disturbed sites on the planet, signs of past people are present.

Ancient pots were found ceremonially set near a stream that flows down a waterfall along the side of a cliff.

No people currently live on the mountain.

 

Since the Industrial Revolution, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere created by humans is greater than has been created throughout the last 400,000 years. As a result, there’s been a rise in temperature and changing weather patterns globally. Despite Lico remaining mostly undisturbed by modern humans, its forests are still vulnerable to climate change.

Lico is capable of answering the question: how does a millennia of climate and ecological changes affect an undisturbed forest?

 

Study

 

In order to begin answering that question, information from the site must be taken. First, a two-meter-deep hole was dug to sample the layers of soil in the order that they were accumulated.

Tins are filled with each soil layer, and each tin contains insight into Lico’s ecology. Like a time capsule, the soil lets us know which flowers grew during which time frame, and where and how waters flowed into the area.

As a way to allow investigation without disturbing the forest, the data will be made public so researchers around the world can study Lico.

In addition to the accessible data, people can view the rainforest in real time. As a way to constantly track new, undiscovered species, Bayliss has strapped motion-sensitive video cameras to trees. For two years, four high-definition cameras constantly survey the location.

 

Featured Image via Tourism.com