The most extensive forest ecosystems in Africa that hold the continent’s future
The role played by forest ecosystems across the globe cannot be underestimated. Forest ecosystems are home to nearly half of the world’s species, with some of the richest biodiversity found in tropical forests.
The world population depends on forests for survival. From the air we breathe to food and fuel security. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, more than 1.6 billion people around the world depend on forests for their livelihood while about 60 million indigenous people are completely dependent on forests for all aspects of their survival.
Therefore, goes without saying, Without forest ecosystems, the Earth would be uninhabitable. Even in face of climate variability and environmental degradation, forests are becoming important for human survival.
Forests are one of Africa’s most important natural resources, both for the influence they have in the continent’s ecology and for their economic benefits. For quite a long, the forests have provided habitats for a wide range of flora and fauna.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Africa’s forests and woodlands are estimated to cover 650 million hectares, or 21.8 percent of the continent’s land area. Recent estimates put the African forest area at 675 million hectares or 23 percent of the overall land area of the continent.
List of largest forest ecosystems in Africa
1. Congo Forest
The Congo rainforest is Africa’s largest contiguous forest and the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world. It covers about 695,000 square miles. It is second to the Amazon forest.
It covers parts of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.
The Congo rainforest is known for its richness in biodiversity, including more than 600 tree species and 10,000 animal species. Some of its most famous residents include forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, okapi, leopards, hippos, and lions. The different habitat species have a significant role in shaping the character of their forest home.
2. Mau forest
Mau forest is a montane forest complex located in Kenya. It is one of the biggest forests in East Africa with an area coverage of 273,300 hectares (675,000 acres).
It is the largest water catchment area in Kenya with numerous rivers originating from the forest such as Southern Ewaso Ng’iro, Sondu River, Mara River, and Njoro River.
These rivers feed Lake Victoria, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Natron Westerns slopes of the Mau.
The forest has been traditionally inhabited by Ogiek people, whose hunter-gatherer lifestyle is sustainable. However, due to immigration from other ethnic groups, large parts of the forest area have been cleared for settlement. Human activities, such as logging have led to deforestation of more than a quarter of the area since 1973.
3. Mt Kenya forest
Mt Kenya forest is a cornerstone of Kenya’s economy through the provision of varied socio-economic and ecosystem services. Mt. Kenya forest is a major carbon sink and a major water tower.
The forest is home to Africa’s second tallest mountain; Mt Kenya with an elevation of 5,199 meters above sea level. The forest is an irreplaceable biodiversity hotspot with unique flora and fauna of conservation importance.
Mount Kenya is the main water catchment area for two large rivers in Kenya; the Tana, the largest river in Kenya, and the Ewaso Nyiro North. The forest ecosystem provides water directly to over 2 million people
4. Cross-Niger Transition Forests
The Cross-Niger transition forests are a tropical moist broadleaf forest of southeastern Nigeria. It is located between the Niger River on the west and the Cross River on the east covering an area of 20,700 sq km.
It was once covered with tropical forest and savanna woodland but today is among the most densely populated areas of Africa. Most of the forest has been removed and the area is now grassland.
The forest is home to a number of wildlife including drill monkeys, African buffalo, cheetahs, warthogs, hippos, caracals, leopards, lions, baboons, and red-capped mangabey. It is also home to more than 900 species of birds.
5. Ongoye Forest
The Ongoye Forest an ancient coastal scarp forest protected by the oNgoye Forest Reserve in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. The forest of almost 4,000 ha covers an extensive granite ridge that rises from 200 to 460 metres above sea level.
The forest vegetation cover in Ongoye Forest includes natal olinia, natal palm-nut, giant umzimbeet, forest mangosteen, forest water berry, Giant Pock Ironwood, Zulu bead-string, Natal Krantz Ash, Natal White Stinkwood, and the Pondo Fig.
6. Budongo Forest Reserve
The Budongo Forest is in Uganda northwest of the capital city Kampala on the way to Murchison Falls National Park. The forest area coverage is an 825 square km forest reserve.
The forest has one of the biggest Mahogany forests in the East Africa region. Budongo Forest Reserve is characterized by medium altitude damp semi-deciduous verdant forests and is located in the districts of Hoima, Masindi, and Buliisa in Western Uganda.
The forest is also home to rhinos, lions, leopards, buffaloes, hippopotamus, cheetah, elephants, giraffes and zebra, chimpanzees, and birds.
7. Newlands Forest
Newlands Forest is a conservancy area on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, beside the suburb of Newlands, Cape Town.
It is owned and maintained by the Table Mountain National Parks Board, along with the City Parks Department of Cape Town covering an area of 400 hectares.
Wildlife in the forest includes chaffinch, cape white-eye, grassbird, southern double-collared sunbird, African black swift, alpine swift, white-rumped swift, black saw-wing swallow, greater striped swallow, African olive pigeon, cape canary, monkeys, African wild dog, and ground hornbill.
8. Mount Cameroon and Bioko Montane Forests
The Mount Cameroon and Bioko montane forests is a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion in central Africa. It occupies the upper slopes of coastal Mount Cameroon in Cameroon and the mountains of nearby Bioko island in Equatorial Guinea.
9. Arabuko Sokoke forest
The Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve is located on the coast of Kenya, 110 km north of Mombasa. It is a protected National Forest Reserve.
The 420 km2 Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is the largest remaining forest ecosystems of dry coastal forest found in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Over 260 species of birds have been recorded in the forest including the six globally threatened ones: Sokoke scops owl, Sokoke Pipit, east coast akalat, spotted ground thrush, Amani sunbird, and Clarke’s weaver.
10. Karura Forest
Karura Forest Reserve is an urban upland forest on the outskirts of the capital Nairobi, Kenya. Its remarkable geographical location and natural resource is one of the largest gazetted forests in the world fully within city limits. It covers an area of about 1,000 ha.
The forest contains nearly all the 605 species of wildlife found in Nairobi including three types of antelope. It is managed by Kenya Forest Service (KFS).
The forest offers eco-friendly opportunities for Kenyans and visitors to enjoy a leafy green respite from the hustle and bustle of the city to walk, to jog, or simply to sit quietly and experience the serenity of nature in all its diversity.