The Eight Biodiversity Hotspots Of Africa

A chacma baboon near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
A chacma baboon near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

Africa is famous for its rich and varied biological resources. The continent houses 4,700 mammal species of the world and over 2,000 species of birds. The mainland of Africa is home to about 40,000 to 60,000 species of plants and more than 100,000 invertebrate species. Thus, it is no wonder that the continent has eight of the 34 biodiversity hotspots found in the world. They are described below:

8. Succulent Karoo

The succulent karoo is an ecoregion in Namibia and South Africa. Here, frequent fogs result from the effects of the cold Benguela Current. It is one of Africa’s eight biodiversity hotspots. The region is famous for its great diversity of succulent plants. It hosts nearly one-third of the succulent plant species found in the world. Nearly 40% of the species found here are endemic. The reptilian and invertebrate diversity of the Karoo is also highly diverse. 22 of the 50 species of scorpions and 48 of the 115 reptilian species found here are endemic to the region.

7. Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands

This biodiversity hotspot encompasses the several terrestrial and marine ecosystems of the islands in the Indian Ocean including Madagascar. In Madagascar alone, there are 7 terrestrial, 5 freshwater, and 2 marine ecoregions. High levels of endemism exist among both plant and animals species living in this hotspot. For example, Madagascar hosts 99 species of lemurs, all of which are endemic to the island. The fossa and fanaloka are some other endemic species of Madagascar.

6. Horn of Africa

Shaped like the horn of the rhinoceros, the Horn of Africa is an East African peninsula. The countries of Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Ethiopia are located in this region. Nearly 220 mammalian species including many threatened species live in the region. Some of the most notable animals found in the Horn of Africa include the dibatag, silver dikdik, beira, Somali pygmy gerbil, Grevy's zebra, African leopard, spotted hyena, etc. The hotspot also hosts great avian diversity. Birds like the Djibouti francolin, black boubou, Warsangli linnet, etc., also live here. Of the nearly 285 species of birds, about 90 species are found only in the region. 10 of the 100 freshwater fish species inhabiting the waters in the region are endemic.

5. Guinean Forests of West Africa

This biodiversity hotspot includes the tropical moist broadleaf forests along West Africa’s coast. This hotspot belt runs from Guinea and Sierra Leone in the west to Cameroon’s Sanaga River region in the east. The forests in this region can be categorized into several distinct ecoregions like the Guinean montane forests, Cameroonian Highlands forests, Cross-Niger transition forests, etc. The Guinean forests house a great diversity of flora and fauna including many endemic species.

4. Eastern Afromontane

The Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot hosts an incredible level of biodiversity. There are at least 7,600 plant species including 2,350 endemic species. The Albertine Rift area located in this hotspot houses around 300 endemics. More than 500 orchid species grow here. The Eastern Afromontane region also has over 1,300 species of birds of which 157 species are found nowhere else in the world. Several species of threatened primates, the African elephant, the African leopard, and many other mammalian species also live in this region. The region also hosts nearly 350 reptilian species, 323 amphibian species, and hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates.

3. Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa

This biodiversity hotspot is located along Africa’s eastern coast on the Indian Ocean. It is a tropical moist forest region that extends from Somalia to Mozambique and includes parts of coastal Tanzania and Kenya. The forests in this region host great biodiversity and have high levels of endemism. The forests here are also vital to the region’s economy. They are essential for providing clean air and water, food, medicinal plants, fuelwood, etc., to the people living in the area. Threats from overexploitation of the coastal forests, however, threaten the biodiversity found in this hotspot.

2. Cape Floristic Region

This biodiversity hotspot is located in South Africa’s southern tip. It represents the Cape Floristic Region, one of the world’s six floral kingdoms. The area exhibits incredible plant biodiversity and high levels of endemism. Nearly 9,000 species of vascular plants are found here including 69% endemics. The fybnos biome located in this region supports the region’s economy to a great extent from revenue earned via eco-tourism and harvest of fybnos products.

1. Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany

This biodiversity hotspot is located in Southern Africa where it stretches from Mozambique’s southern parts through to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Nata provinces of South Africa. The region is a meeting point of eight major types of vegetation. There are nearly 600 species of trees growing in this hotspot. The black rhino, a critically endangered species, is one of the iconic species found here. Besides the rhino, the other members of the ‘Big Five’ are also residents of this region. Human developmental activities have led to high rates of deforestation in this biodiversity hotspot.


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