Albertine Rift montane forests
|Albertine Rift montane forests|
|Biome||Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests|
|Area||103,900 km2 (40,100 sq mi)|
|Countries||Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda|
Location and description
The high montane forests cover the western portions of Rwanda and Burundi, the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and portions of western Uganda and Tanzania. This area occupies the parallel Albertine Rift Mountains that enclose the western branch of the East African Rift. The mountain ranges include the Lendu Plateau of Uganda (although here the forest has almost completely been cleared), Virunga Mountains, and Rwenzori Mountains. At the highest elevations of the Rwenzori and Virunga ranges (above 3000 meters), the forests transition to the Afroalpine Rwenzori-Virunga montane moorlands ecoregion, including the high peaks of Mount Stanley and Mount Karisimbi. The highest peak in Burundi, Mount Heha however is in this ecoregion.
Flora and fauna
The mountain rainforests of the ecoregion have a cooler climate than the Congolian lowland forests or the savanna of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, and therefore are home to a rich variety of Afromontane flora and especially fauna. The rare Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) survives only in this ecoregion as do L'Hoest's monkey and a sub-species of Hamlyn's monkey as well as many species of butterflies, and birds including Grauer's warblers, Chapin's flycatchers, and the Ruwenzori turaco. The montane forests are included on the Global 200 list.
Threats and protection
Much of the forest has already been cleared for agriculture or for logging, especially in densely populated Rwanda and Burundi, but large areas of forest still remains in forest reserves and at higher altitudes in ranges including the Virunga, Itombwe, and Rwenzori. The forest clearance is ongoing and is a major threat to the ecology of the region. The violent history of the region in recent times has also caused damage to the ecological balance, for example almost eliminating the population of elephant from Virunga National Park in the Congo.
Urban areas and settlements
Built-up areas in the region include:
- in Uganda - the market town of Fort Portal, base for watching chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, and hub for visiting the Ruwenzori mountains to the north.
- in Rwanda - Ruhengeri (near the Volcanoes National Park, and the Lake Kivu towns of Gisenyi, Kibuye (for boats trips to Napoleon Island in the lake, and Cyangugu, base for watching primates in the Nyungwe Forest.
- in the DRC) - the Lake Kivu cities of Goma, opposite Gisenyi and the base for visiting Virunga National Park) and Bukavu, opposite Cyangugu and near the Kahuzi-Biéga National Park, which is home to mountain gorillas but endangered due to the conflict in the region (see Second Congo War).
- in Burundi - the northwestern towns of Cibitoke and flood-ravaged Bubanza, and the southern city of Bururi where Bururi Natural Reserve preserves some of the Afro-montane forest.
Visiting the region
Popular activities include:
- gorilla watching in Virunga National Park, or in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda (formerly the base of zoologist Dian Fossey).
- trekking in the Rwenzori Mountains.
- Hoekstra, J. M.; Molnar, J. L.; Jennings, M.; Revenga, C.; Spalding, M. D.; Boucher, T. M.; Robertson, J. C.; Heibel, T. J.; Ellison, K. (2010). Molnar, J. L., ed. The Atlas of Global Conservation: Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities to Make a Difference. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-26256-0.
- "Albertine Rift montane forests". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
- Albertine Rift programme (Wildlife Conservation Society)
- The Rwanda Tourist Board (ORTPN)
- Volcanoes National Park at UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre
- The Virunga Primates page from Footprint Adventures
- Albertine Rift Projects Birds, butterflies, fish, Rubiaceae (Royal Museum for Central Africa)