Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) in Cameroon

Identifying and promoting the long-term conservation and sustainable management of Cameroon’s most important sites for plant diversity.

Cloudy forest Cameroon


Cameroon, on the Atlantic coast of West Coast Africa, ranges from the lush rainforests of the active volcano, Mt Cameroon (4000 m high) on the coast, parts of it with the highest rainfall in Africa, receiving 10-15 m of rain p.a., to the arid sub-Saharan bushland of the extreme north at Lake Chad. Cameroon has areas in the southwest of the region corresponding with the highland chain, with over 4,000 plant species per degree square, the highest diversity in tropical Africa, according to several studies. The current list of plant species exceeds 7,800 (Onana 2011), but more species are published every year. Many of these species, about 516, are narrow endemics (Onana, 2013) and consequently are highly threatened by development. Currently, 815 species are listed as threatened using the IUCN global Red List standard (Onana & Cheek 2011), a vastly higher number than for any other tropical African country, reflecting both investment in Red Listing by Kew and its main partner the National Herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé, and also the clearance of endemic species-rich habitat, especially lowland rainforest and submontane cloud forest. The main threats are expansion of plantations, open-cast mining, hydro-electric dams, and unsustainable logging followed by smallholder agricultural expansion. Cameroon depends on its natural plant resources. Many of the national dishes derive from indigenous plant species, from ndolé (Vernonia amygdalina) to eru (Gnetum africanum) and egusi (Cucurmeropsis mannii), while fibres and traditional medicines are culturally important and timber from the forests and oil palm are major export earners.

There is an urgent need to identify further critical sites for plant conservation in Cameroon so that the limited resources available can be targeted to ensure the sustainable management and long-term survival of Cameroon’s plant and habitat diversity. Work is already advanced in identifying critical areas in terms of concentrations of threatened species, but numerous areas remain unsurveyed for plant diversity and others are incompletely surveyed.

The assessment of Important Plant Areas (IPAs) in Cameroon offers a practical but rigorous means of identifying the priority areas for site-based conservation. IPAs are aligned to Target 5 of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD's) 'Global Strategy for Plant Conservation' and so offer an important step towards fulfilling national CBD targets.

Kew’s role in the project

Kew is working in collaboration with the National Herbarium of Cameroon at the Institute of Research in Agronomic Development (IRAD) and the University of Yaoundé I to identify Important Plant Areas in Cameroon. Recent fieldwork has focussed on Central, South and Littoral Regions and has been combined with collecting seed of threatened tree species.

The project builds on previous botanical inventory for conservation management work beginning in 1861 (Kew’s Gustav Mann) and more recently (1992-ongoing) collaborative surveys of areas such as Mt Cameroon, Mt Oku, Bali-Ngemba, Kupe-Bakossi-Mwanenguba, Lebialem Highlands, Mefou, resulting in five new protected areas for plants being recognised so far. Data collected for Cameroon’s Red Data Book of Plants (2011) has formed a basis for analysis of concentrations of threatened species. This work was supported by DfID, DEFRA-Darwin Initiative projects and the Earthwatch Institute.

Activities include fieldwork, seed collection, herbarium research, description of new species to science, georeferencing specimens and mapping species, IUCN Red Listing, research on under-utilised socio-economic species, workshops, training events and support for the ongoing series Flore du Cameroun.


  • Raising public awareness of the global importance of Cameroon’s rare and threatened plant species and vegetation types and the key sites where they occur.
  • Ensuring the long-term survival and sustainable use of Cameroon’s endemic, threatened and socio-economically important plant species through inclusion in Important Plant Areas with national and community engagement and support for protection.
  • Conservation and management recommendations for the identified IPAs and the priority species and habitats they support.
  • Enrich the “Letouzey” database of YA with Cameroon’s Important Plant Areas and endemic, threatened and socio-economically important plants.
  • Online "Letouzey" database.
  • Cameroon’s Important Plant Areas book, webpages and booklet for schools.
  • New Conservation Checklists for Important Plant Areas such as Ebo.
  • Updated list of Cameroon’s species including endemic and near-endemic plants.
  • Publication of new plant species discoveries for Cameroon
  • Publication of new volumes of Flore Du Cameroun.
  • IRAD-National Herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé, BP 1601, Cameroon.
  • ANCO, Bamenda, NW Region, Cameroon
  • Limbe Botanic Garden, Limbe, SW Region, Cameroon
  • Ebo Forest Programme, Limbe, SW Region, Cameroon
  • Plantlife International 
  • University Yaoundé I, Yaoundé
  • Congo Basin Institute 

Cable, S. & Cheek, M. (1998)

The Plants of Mount Cameroon: A Conservation Checklist

RBG, Kew. Lxxix + 198 pp

Cheek, M., Onana, J-M. & Pollard, B.J. (2000)

The Plants of Mount Oku and the Ijim Ridge, Cameroon: A Conservation Checklist

RBG, Kew. iv + 211 pp

Cheek et al. (2004)

The Plants of Kupe, Mwanenguba and the Bakossi Mountains, Cameroon: A Conservation Checklist

RBG, Kew. iv + 508 pp

Cheek, M. Harvey, Y. & Onana, J-M. (2011)

The Plants of Mefou Proposed National Park , Cameroon: A Conservation Checklist

RBG, Kew. 252 pp

Darbyshire, I., Anderson, S., Asatryan, A. et al. (2017)

Important Plant Areas: revised selection criteria for a global approach to plant conservation

Biodiversity & Conservation26: 1767-1800

Harvey et al. (2004)

The Plants of Bali Ngemba Forest Reserve, Cameroon: A Conservation Checklist

RBG, Kew. iv + 154 pp

Harvey et al. (2010)

The Plants of Lebialem Highlands (Bechati-Fosimondi-Besali), Cameroon: A Conservation Checklist

RBG, Kew. iv + 170 pp

Onana, J.-M. (2011)

The Vascular Plants of Cameroon, a Taxonomic Checklist with IUCN Assessments

IRAD-National Herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé. 195 pp

Onana, J.-M.(2013)

Synopsis des espèces végétales vasculaires endémiques et rares du Cameroun. Check-liste pour la gestion durable et la conservation de la biodiversité. Flore du Cameroun 40.

Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation, Yaoundé.x + 279pp

Onana, J.-M. & Cheek, M. (2011)

The Red Data Book of the Flowering Plants of Cameroon

RBG, Kew. 578 pp

Short term, small-scale private philanthropy through Kew Foundation

Kew Strategic Output

Tropical Important Plant Areas


Convention on Biological Diversity

The IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species