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Eastern Arc Forests

Tanzania Forest Conservation Group


Originally encompassing 23,700 sq. km and stretching in scattered mountain blocks from the Taita Hills in southern Kenya to the Udzungwa Mountains in southern Tanzania, the Eastern Arc Forests are among the oldest and most biologically diverse in the world.   The main mountains, from north to south, are: Taita Hills, North and South Pare, West and East Usambara, North and South Nguru, Ukaguru, Uluguru, Rubeho, and Udzungwas (WWF 2001).   Believed to be tens of million years old, these forests contain high levels of endemic plant and animal species (Lovett 1998).  The mountains of the Eastern Arc are essentially remnant islands of the once greater tropical forest that extended from east to west across Africa.  As geologic and climactic changes occurred, the forests retreated leaving small patches at the higher elevations.  The monsoonal rains from the Indian Ocean directly influence and sustain the unique biological characteristics of the forests (Lovett 1998).  By the mid-1990s, it was estimated that a maximum of 5,340 sq. km of forest remained (Newmark 1998, GEF 2002).


The Eastern Arc Mountains together with the Coastal Forests of Tanzania and Kenya (including the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia) have been designated a hotspot  by Conservation International and are one of WWF’s Global 200 priority ecoregions.  The hotspot is believed to contain at least 1,500 endemic plant species, 16 endemic mammals, 22 endemic birds, 50 endemic reptiles and 33 endemic amphibians (Lovett & Wasser, 1993; Burgess et al. 1998; Burgess & Clarke 2000; Myers et al. 2000).  The 2002 IUCN Red List identifies 333 species as either critically endangered, endangered, or threatened in the hotspot.  Twenty out of twenty-one African Violets found in the Eastern Arc Mountains are endemic.


The forests are highly important for the livelihood and well-being of many Tanzanians .  The Uluguru Mountains, for example, provide Dar es Salaam with its main water source.  The forests also generate a significant percentage of Tanzania's electricity through hydrolectric power plants.  Even though many Eastern Arc Forests are now experiencing unsustainable resource use practices, traditionally, the forests provided timber and related products for local communities.  These same local communities retain a wealth of indigenous knowledge about the flora and fauna that has been poorly documented and is in risk of being lost forever.


Today, the Eastern Arc Forests are under severe threat.  The main threats are: commercial agriculture, subsistence agriculture, commercial timber extraction, domestic timber extraction, intentional fires, and household use (GEF 2002).  As Tanzania's population continues to grow, the pressures on the forests will become even more significant.  Since TFCG's beginning in 1985, it has been actively involved with communities and government to increase awareness and protection of these vital forests.  In the 1980s, TFCG successfully campaigned for the first Eastern Arc National Park in Tanzania, the Udzungwa Mountains National Park.


During the 1990s, TFCG began to establish a network of field based projects in the Eastern Arc.  These projects worked with the forest-close communities to raise awareness about forest conservation, develop strategies and improve livelihoods. In 1998 Tanzania adopted a new National Forest Policy.  The 1998 National Forest Policy empowers communities to manage forests on village land.  Since the passing of this policy TFCG has taken a leading role in developing and testing the implementation of participatory forest management in Tanzania.


TFCG has projects in five Eastern Arc Forests:

West Usambara Mountains

East Usambara Mountains

South Udzungwa Mountains

South Nguru Mountains

Rubeho Mountains

TFCG Eastern Arc/Coastal Map: 177K



Burgess, N.D. & G.P. Clarke, eds.. 2000. The Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa. IUCN: Cambridge and Gland.


Burgess, N.D., M. Nummelin, J. Fjeldsa, K.M Howell, K. Lukumbyzya, L. Mhando, P. Phillipson, & E. Vanden Berghe, editors. 1998. Biodiversity and Conservation of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya. Journal of the East African Natural History Society (special issue) 87: 367pp.


GEF. 2002. Project Brief: Conservation and Management of the Eastern Arc Mountain Forests, Tanzania. GEF Arusha, Tanzania.


Lovett, J. C. 1998. Naming the Arc. The Arc Journal 7. Available URL: HYPERLINK http://www.easternarc.org/pub/naming_the_arc.html <Accessed 2003, October 14>


Lovett, J.C. & S.K. Wasser, eds. 1993. Biogeography and Ecology of the Rain Forests of Eastern Africa. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge


Myers, N., R.A Mittermeier, C.G. Mittermeier, G.A.B. da Fonseca & J. Kent. 2000. Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403: 853–858.


Newmark, W. 1998. Forest area, fragmentation and loss in the Eastern Arc Mountains: implications for the conservation of biological diversity.  Journal of East African Natural History 87: 29-36.


WWF. 2001. Ecoregion Profile: Eastern Arc Forests. Tropical & Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests. J. Schipper & N. Burgess, authors. Available URL: HYPERLINK http://www.nationalgeographic.com/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/at/at0109.html <Accessed 2003, October 28>


Coastal Forests

Tanzania Forest Conservation Group


The Coastal Forests found in Tanzania are a part of the ecoregion known as "Northern Zanzibar-Inhambane Coastal Forest Mosaic" (WWF-US 2003).  This ecoregion extends from the Kenya–Somali border to the Tanzania–Mozambique border along the coast.  The ecoregion includes forest patches found on the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia.  These forests are characterized by a mosaic of vegetation types including evergreen forest, brachystegia woodland, scrub forest and dry forest.  Mangrove forests are not considered to be Coastal Forest in this definition.  Coastal Forests are distinct from the forests of the Eastern Arc in terms of climate, elevation, and dominant plant species.  Most Coastal Forests are found at elevations between 0-50 m, 300-500 m, and even up to a maximum of 1100 m depending on ecological conditions (Burgess et al. 2000).


Like the Eastern Arc Forests, the Coastal Forests are important for conservation due to the high levels of flora and fauna endemism.  In Tanzania, there are 66 forest patches covering an area of 700 sq. km (Burgess et al. 2000).  While the highest levels of biodiversity are found in the closed canopy forest, this only makes up about 1% of the total area of the Coastal Forest Mosaic. (Clarke 2000; WWF-US 2003).  Notwithstanding the small area covered by these forests, they retain high numbers of endemic plant and animal species: 554 plant, five bird, three mammal , 24 reptile, five amphibian, 86 mollusc and 75 butterfly.  The Coastal Forests of Tanzania—and Kenya—together with the Eastern Arc Forests, have been designated a hotspot by Conservation International and are, accordingly, a conservation priority.


In addition to the high biodiversity values of the Coastal Forests, they are also important because of their many and varied uses.  Coastal Forests are used by people to collect medicinal plants, fuelwood, building materials, food, and they help to maintain a regular water supply for towns and villages. Despite their importance—both in terms of biodiversity and use—the Coastal Forests are being degraded rapidly.  The main threats to the Coastal Forests in the hotspot are: pressure on forest resources, agriculture, settlement, urbanization, lack of legal protection, and wildlife-human conflicts (elephants) (WWF-EARPO 2002).  Poverty is a root cause behind many of these problems.


Since 2000, TFCG has been implementing participatory forest management at several sites near Dar es Salaam that are under intense pressure from charcoal production and agricultural encroachment.  TFCG aims to work with the local communities and government officials to develop management plans that will ensure the long-term conservation of these forests. 


TFCG has projects in three Coastal Forests:

Ngaramia Riverine Forest

Pande Game Reserve

Ruvu South Forest

TFCG Eastern Arc/Coastal Map: 177K



Burgess, N.D., G.P. Clarke, J. Madgewick, S.A. Robertson & A. Dickinsen. 2000. Distribution and Status. In The Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa. N.D. Burgess & G.P. Clarke, eds. IUCN: Cambridge and Gland. Pp. 71–81.


Clarke, G.P. 2000. Climate and climatic history. In The Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa. N.D. Burgess & G.P. Clarke, edsIUCN: Cambridge and Gland. Pp. 47–67.


WWF-EARPO. 2002. Eastern African Coastal Forest Progamme. Regional Workshop Report. Nairobi 4–7 February 2002. A. Younge, G. Negussie & N. Burgess, authors. Available URL: HYPERLINK http://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/e_africa_coastal_forests.pdf <Accessed 2003, October 28>


WWF-US. 2003. Ecoregional reports: Northern Zanzibar-Inhambane coastal Forest Mosaic. Eastern and Southern Africa Bioregions. J. Schipper & N. Burgess, authors.


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