The mountain ecosystems of East Africa are rich in biodiversity and are an important resource for local communities. They provide food, freshwater, fibre, fuel, shelter, building materials, medicines and other important ecosystem services. As such, biodiversity serves as an important safety net for the rural poor (Boko et al., 2007; Alweny et al., 2014). Understanding how climate change will impact on natural resources is a major concern (Platts et al., 2012). Changes to biodiversity are also likely to adversely affect the tourism industry (UNEP, 2014). Known for their high concentration of plants and animals of which many are endemic, the mountainous areas of East Africa are some of the main tourist attractions in the subregion (UNEP, 2014). Much of the Eastern fromontane biodiversity hotspot, which stretches from the mountains of Saudi Arabia in the north to Zimbabwe in the south, is found in East Africa. It includes the Albertine Rift, the Eastern Arc Mountains, the Ethiopian Highlands, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon and Mount Meru. Of the 10,856 species found in this hotspot, over a third are endemic (BirdLife International, 2012). The Albertine Rift alone – which stretches across Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and DRC – has over 400 recorded species of mammals and 7,500 species of plants and animals, of which 15 per cent are endemic. The Virunga National Park, in the Albertine Rift, has the largest diversity of vertebrate species of all protected areas in Africa, including the endangered okapi (UNEP, 2014). Furthermore, 14 per cent of Africa’s vascular plants are found within the Eastern Arc Mountains, an area that represents only 0.24 per cent of Africa’s total land area (Platts et al., 2012).
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From collection: Sustainable Mountain Development in East Africa in a Changing Climate
Nieves Lopez Izquierdo