Conservation Checklist of the Trees of Uganda
The first conservation checklist for East Africa will deal with some 800 tree species; each species is assessed for its conservation status, and those in the Vulnerable or Endangered categories will be given a full treatment with local names, uses, maps and images.
Uganda has a wide diversity of plant species and quite varied habitats: open water systems, wetlands, tropical high moist forest, dry forest, woodland, thicket, bushland, steppe-like vegetation, grassland to semi-arid habitats. The distribution of plants and levels of species richness and endemism vary across these various habitats, with moist tropical forests the richest and most highly diversified.
In Uganda there are a number of threats to plants generally, and trees in particular. Plant resources in Uganda now face very heavy use and extraction for various uses, partly because of the rapidly increasing population, lack of employment and limited alternative means of livelihood. Over 96% of Uganda’s population depends on biomass for fuel. By far the most important cause of vegetation change is subsistence farming. There is an appreciable number of areas outside the protected area network that are important for tree and other biodiversity conservation in Uganda.
Availability of accurate and up-to-date information is essential and requisite to proper conservation planning. In this vein, we have tried to make a start by making a list of all the species of tree occurring in Uganda, and by indicating which of these have restricted distribution areas. Such restricted species may be threatened by either habitat destruction or more specific threats, and we have highlighted and illustrated such species. Product development, bio-trade and bio-prospecting all need to be guided by information on the status, trends and patterns of the very resource targeted. We hope that this checklist will be useful for both the future development of Uganda, and for the conservation of its trees.
For all 827 tree species, we checked distribution area, from both literature and herbarium specimens. For those species with more restricted distribution we georeferenced the specimens from relevant herbaria. From the georeferenced files, and our estimates of population sizes and threats, we made global conservation assessments. For every species with really restricted distribution, and those with a conservation category of Vulnerable or worse, we prepared species information sheets which include maps, illustrations, data on how we arrived at the conservation assessment, and notes on local uses and local names. Of the 827 species, four are Critically Endangered, four Endangered and four Vulnerable. There are, in fact, many species under threat in Uganda; but many species have a wide distribution, and because of such distribution, they are less likely to be flagged up as being in danger at global level. If a species has a small distribution area, any threat will significantly affect such a species. On the other hand, if a species has a large distribution area, it will take quite a while before such a threat has an impact; or, more worryingly, before such a threat becomes clear. A species may be slowly disappearing over its entire range, but if such a range encompasses twelve or twenty different countries, such a slow threat may only become clear when it is too late. What can we do about this? We can communicate better and more with our close and far neighbours, of course; and in a way, this checklist is a step in such a direction.
Project Partners and Collaborators
Kalema, James (Makerere University, Kampala)
For the production/publication part: the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund