Coastal forests of eastern Africa: Status, endemism patterns and their potential causes
|Title||Coastal forests of eastern Africa: Status, endemism patterns and their potential causes|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||1998|
|Authors||Burgess, N. D., Clarke G. P., & Rodgers W. A.|
|Journal||Biological Journal of the Linnean Society|
Eastern African coastal forests are located within the Swahili regional centre of endemism and Swahili-Maputaland regional transition zone in eastern Africa, between 1degree North and 25degree South, and 34-41degree East. Approximately 3167 km2 coastal forest remains: 2 km2 in Somalia, 660 km2 in Kenya, 697 km2 in Tanzania, 16 km2 in Malawi, 3 km2 in Zimbabwe and perhaps 1790 km2 in Mozambique. Most forests are small (ltoreq 20 km2), and all but 19 are under 30 km2 in area. Over 80% of coastal forest is located on government land, principally Forest Reserves; only B. 3 km2 is found in National Parks (6.2 km2 in Kenya (Arabuko-Sokoke), 2 km2 in Tanzania (Mafia Island) and tiny patches in Zimbabwe). Coastal forests are an important and highly threatened centre of endemism for plants (c 550 endemic species), mammals (6 species), birds (9 species), reptiles (26 species), frogs (2 species), butterflies (79 species), snails (>86 species) and millipedes (mchgt20 species). Endemic species are concentrated in the forests of the Tana River, between Malindi in Kenya to Tanga in northern Tanzania, and in southern Tanzania. Forests with highest numbers of endemics are: lower Tana River, Arabuko-Sokoke, Shimba Hills (Kenya); lowland East Usambara, Pugu Hills, Matumbi Hills, Rondo and Litipo and other plateaux near Lindi (Tanzania); the Tanzanian offshore island of Pemba; Bazaruto archipelago (Mozambique), and tiny forest remnants of southern Malawi, eastern Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Most coastal forest endemics have a narrow distributional range, often exhibiting single-site endemism or with scattered or disjunct distributional patterns. They are best interpreted as relicts and not the result of recent evolution. Relictualization probably started with the separation of the ancient Pan African rainforest into two parts during the Miocene. The coastal forests are interpreted as a 'vanishing refuge' with the endemic species gradually becoming more and more relict (and presumably extinct) due historically to climatic desiccation and more recently to human destruction.