Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) in Ethiopia

Identifying and documenting critical sites for plant diversity in Ethiopia.

Lush green landscape

Ethiopia is renowned for its high biological diversity, high number of endemic (unique) species and for its exceptional diversity of crop plants and their wild relatives. However, many of Ethiopia’s plant species and their habitats are facing increasing threats from habitat loss and degradation by large-scale development and agricultural projects.

The large majority of the country falls under one of two biodiversity “hotspots” - the Eastern Afromontane and Horn of Africa. These regions combine high biological diversity with high levels of environmental threat. A preliminary Red List assessment of the extinction risk of Ethiopia’s plants found that 464 species, or over 8% of the total Flora, are globally threatened. 

Western Ethiopia holds globally important populations of widely utilised species; not only are the forests the home of wild coffee (Coffea arabica) but the woodlands hold important edge-of-range-populations of species such as the shea butter tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) used widely in cosmetics, and Pterocarpus lucens which is a favoured wood for furniture making and sculpturing and the bark is used for medicine and tanning. This region is also rich in endemic species, and many of these are used locally.

Current protected areas do not represent the full diversity of habitats in the Western Ethiopian region, leaving many of the rarest and most threatened plant species totally unprotected.

A simple and accessible system for identifying plant conservation priorities in Ethiopia is urgently required. With this in mind, the Ethiopian Government called on biologists in Ethiopia to facilitate the improved protection of the country’s unique plant diversity and genetic heritage, and has specifically requested the assistance of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the process of identifying Important Plant Areas. The identification of IPAs will enable effective conservation planning in Ethiopia, providing a critical contribution to Ethiopia’s environmental commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Kew is working in partnership with Addis Ababa University (AAU) - one of the leading botanical institutions in Africa and home to the National Herbarium of Ethiopia, a major resource for Ethiopian plant sciences. We are also working in collaboration with the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute and Gullele Botanical Garden in Addis Ababa.


  • Identify and document critical sites for plant diversity in Ethiopia, using the IPA criteria approach 
  • Provide conservation and management recommendations for the identified IPAs and the priority species and habitats they support
  • Engage with relevant stakeholders (including national and regional policy makers, land use planners, private industry, conservation practitioners and community leaders) and effectively disseminate the IPA findings in order to promote the conservation and sustainable management of these sites and to prevent the loss of key sites to development.

This project will extend Kew’s successful Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) initiative to the biodiversity hotspots of Ethiopia. The pilot phase of this project will focus on identifying IPAs in the forests and woodlands of Western Ethiopia. This pilot will help to fine-tune the methodology and build capacity in-country for a future nationwide programme of IPA identification and conservation in Ethiopia. 

Addis Ababa Univeristy

Prof. Sebsebe Demissew
Prof. Sileshi Nemomissa
Dr. Ermias Lulekal
Mr. Melaku Wondafrash
Ms. Lidet Mehari

Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute 

Feleke Woldeyes

Gullele Botanical Garden

Birhanu Belay

  • Additions to the “Red List” of globally threatened plant species in western Ethiopia
  • Data on both the potential and current distribution of vegetation types in Western Ethiopia to identify those most threatened by destruction
  • Identified and documented IPAs - the highest priority sites in western Ethiopia for plant conservation; these will be published online on the IPA database and also through scientific publications
  • Workshops to engage with key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and to promote the inclusion of IPAs within Ethiopia’s national conservation / land management framework and community-led initiatives
  • Build capacity in Ethiopia in IPA identification and data dissemination
  • Increased accessibility of key data on Ethiopia’s rare and unique plants, including the digitisation and geo-location of herbarium specimens of priority species held at AAU and Kew