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Number of IPAs: A network of IPAs has not yet been identified. The Uganda Important Plant Areas project began in 2022 to identify a network of IPAs.
Uganda is botanically unique as the meeting point for a number of Africa’s floras, including influences from the moist Congolian forests in the west to the dry Acacia-Commiphora savanna that extends from north-eastern Uganda into the Horn of Africa.
The topology of the country also varies greatly, from moist plains and valleys associated with the African Great Lakes including Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga, to Afroalpine habitats of Ruwenzori Mountains and Mount Elgon, the former featuring one of the last remaining tropical glaciers in Africa.
Due to this vast range of habitats, Uganda is rich in plant taxa with over 4,800 species, at least 100 of which are endemic or near-endemic to Uganda. Unique Ugandan plant species include the rare cycad species Encephalartos whitelockii, known only from a single site globally, Mpanga Gorge. The E. whitelockii population here represents one of the most concentrated stands of cycads globally, but it has been badly damaged by the construction of a hydroelectric dam leaving the species threatened with extinction.
With a wealth of biodiversity and finite resources for conservation, prioritisation of the most critical areas will be key to conserving Uganda’s flora. Much of Ugandan economy is dependent upon subsistence agriculture, while there has also been a rise in extractive activities such as mining, oil exploration and logging for timber and fuel in recent years.
Without a clear framework focused on where the most important sites for plant diversity are, there is a great risk of losing unique species and habitats completely. Conservation of such areas will also help protect the vital ecosystem services Uganda’s flora provides, including provision of food and medicines, protection of water resources and soil fertility, and regulation of climate.
The Uganda Important Plant Areas (IPAs) project began in 2022 and is a partnership between Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Makerere University, under the Tropical Important Plant Areas programme. Activities include collaboration with in-country stakeholders, gathering data on species and habitats of conservation importance, assessing endemic and near-endemic species for the IUCN Red List and researching the threats to biodiversity and conservation activities across Uganda.
Through this work we will identify a network of Important Plant Areas with the ultimate aim of increasing representation of plants within Uganda’s conservation planning and actions.
The Critically Endangered Encephalartos whitelockii at its only known site globally, the Mpanga Gorge, Uganda.
Botanical survey team in Maramagambo Forest, Uganda.
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