Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) in Uganda

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

A small mountain covered in green forest surrounded by fog

Uganda is a vitally important country for biodiversity in Africa, situated at a crossroads where east meets west and north meets south. 

It has a rich and varied plant life, with over 4,800 species, well over 100 of which are entirely or largely confined to Uganda (endemic and near-endemic species).

Habitats range from the arid environments of the northeast and fire-prone savannas of the northwest to the lush montane rainforests of the southwest.

Significant areas of Uganda’s Albertine Rift fall within the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot.

This abundance of biodiversity provides a wealth of important resources and ecosystem services to the rural and urban communities, from supplying foods, building materials and medicines, to regulatory services including the protection of Uganda’s water resources and fertile soils.

The ecological service of climate moderation is vital for supporting Uganda’s agro-economy.

The Ugandan economy relies heavily on small-scale agriculture, and, increasingly, resource-extractive activities such as oil exploration and logging.

There is, therefore, great difficulty in balancing the drive for economic development with efforts to halt biodiversity decline.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in Uganda contains a significant number of endemic and socio-economically important species to be threatened with extinction.

This includes the Critically Endangered Diospyros katendei, an ebony species whose global range is restricted to single forest reserve in Uganda, and Encephalartos whitelockii, a cycad known only from a short stretch of the Mpanga River Gorge.

In addition, due to the vast size of Uganda’s flora, the extinction risk of many species is still yet to be determined. 

While Uganda has an extensive network of National Parks, Wildlife Reserves and Forest Reserves, a lack of reliable data on plant species means that current legislation fails to protect many of the country’s threatened plant species and habitats.

The assessment of Important Plant Areas (IPAs) in Uganda will provide a systematic and evidence-based means of identifying priority areas for site-based conservation of its flora. 

IPAs are closely aligned to the Convention on Biological Diversity, for which Uganda is a signatory, in particular targets on conserving areas of importance for biodiversity.

The identification of IPAs is a great opportunity to integrate plant species into conservation planning and contribute to the Ugandan Wildlife Authority’s mission to “conserve, economically develop and sustainably manage wildlife and protected areas of Uganda in partnership with the neighbouring communities and stakeholders for the benefit of the people of Uganda and the global community”.

Kew is working in partnership with Makerere University, home of the largest herbarium in Uganda.

The expertise and links with stakeholders held by Makerere will contribute considerably to the success of the project.


  • Identify and document critical sites for plant diversity in Uganda, using the IPA criteria approach, thereby supporting the long-term survival of endemic, threatened and socio-economically important plant species of Uganda
  • Engage with stakeholders throughout society to promote the protection of IPAs, and important species and habitats, to ensure long-term preservation of Uganda’s plant diversity
Project Leader

Iain Darbyshire

Kew Team

Sophie Richards
Jenny Williams

Makerere University Team

James Kalema
Samuel Ojelel

  • IPAs identified and documented; these will be published via the TIPAs Explorer portal
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for Ugandan plant species expanded and updated
  • Increased capacity in botanical research, field techniques and conservation assessment for the next generation of Ugandan scientists and conservationists
  • Identification and publication of new, and potentially useful, species to science
  • Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
  • Players of People’s Postcode Lottery
  • The Woodspring Trust