Bridging the divide between intuitive social-ecological value and sustainability in the Manica Highlands of southern Africa (Zimbabwe-Mozambique).
Southern African mountains remain poorly studied as social-ecological systems (SES) and are poorly represented in the global mountain discourse. However, these mountains provide essential ecosystem services (ES) that underpin local and regional development. Quantitative data on ES, their representation in policy, and the political will for sustainable management are limited. We demonstrate this using the Manica Highlands (MH; Zimbabwe-Mozambique): benefiting one million immediate and five million downstream beneficiaries, the seven identified ES are supported in the literature but lack recent quantitative data needed to persuade policymakers for action to promote sustainability. The ES are most at risk from mining, alien invasive species, rapid land transformation, and climate change - yet fine-scale quantitative data to inform mountain-specific policy on these are also lacking. We recommend a 'science to policy to action' agenda for the MH, but highlight that the greatest challenge to achieving sustainability is a lack of effective governance; therefore it may be difficult to change 'immediate benefits'-thinking to higher ideals that would render the ES of the MH sustainable. As a result, academics, civic society, policy makers and governance instruments should work closely together to quantify the value of the MH, and to formulate specific policy for the MH.