Considered to have potential as a future World Heritage Site
Location and Area: The so-called ‘Eastern Arc’ is a chain of isolated mountains that lies in the savanna lowlands of tropical East Africa. A serial site would be necessary to capture the full range of values of these mountain forests and their massive concentrations of unique and highly threatened species (see map).
Inscription Status: The Eastern Arc Mountain Forests are included on Tanzania’s official tentative list of potential world heritage sites, and a draft nomination dossier has been prepared.
Important Values: The long-standing ecological isolation of forests on each block of mountains - from one another, and from other tropical moist forests in central and west Africa – has resulted in very high levels of endemism, with many species of plants and animals restricted to single mountains along the ‘Arc’. Amongst these unique species are 3 recently-discovered monkeys, one belonging to an entirely new genus.
Slideshow of the main features of the Eastern Arc Mountains (see below for description):
Slideshow description: The slideshow features three of the principal forest blocks of the Eastern Arc and includes photos of some of the plants and animals, including many found nowhere else in the world. It starts in the Usambara mountains with views of some of the rocky peaks embraced by protected forests and eternal mists. At lower altitudes dense human settlement and poor farming practices are leading to severe soil erosion, and most of the natural forest has been cleared. Today forest survives only on the upper slopes of each mountain block, protected as government-managed forest reserve. Within each of these protected forests some commercial forestry is practiced, while other areas are designated as Nature Reserve and managed for the preservation of biodiversity and other environmental attributes. In the Usambaras, the Magambo Nature Reserve is one such area, and some of its mixed montane forest and species are shown. Each of the two adjacent mountain blocks that make up the Usambaras (West and East) are designated as internationally Important Bird Areas (for further information and species lists see links below), while other groups of plants and animals are represented with many endemic species – especially amongst invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and plants. African violets and many species of Impatiens (shown here), known to horticulturalists around the world have their origins in the Eastern Arc mountain forests. The second featured site is Udzungwa National Park in south-central Tanzania. This area is especially remarkable for the recent discovery of two new primate species – the Sanjay Mangabey and Udzungwa red colobus monkey. This is one of the largest blocks of protected land in the eastern arc, a mosaic of high-canopy forest and grassland habitats with many scenic waterfalls, some forest trails and (limited) visitor facilities. Further west (across the so-called Makambako gap, a kind of evolutionary dispersal barrier like Asia’s Wallace line), lies the last of the three featured forest blocks, partially protected within Kitulo National Park. Like the Udzungwa block to its east, Kitulo is a mosaic of forest and grassland, with an especially diverse orchid flora. A notable recent discovery in this area was the Kipunje monkey, a forest primate that has now been classified in an entirely new genus. The photos of Kitulo show the nature of the forest-grassland mosaic, montane forest with Hagenia trees, giant Lobelia and bamboo, one of the ground orchids, and a stand of red-hot pokers (Kniphofia sp.)
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