Coastal Forests

In the past, the lowland regions of Coastal Eastern Africa were blanketed by a magnificent forest mosaic stretching from Southern Mozambique to the Kenyan-Somali border. This mosaic encompassed a rich tapestry of diverse forest and woodland types, collectively known as the Zanzibar-Inhambane Forest mosaic.

However, human habitation in these coastal lowlands dates back centuries, and the last two hundred years have witnessed a significant population increase and rampant development. Unfortunately, a substantial portion of the Coastal Forest has been cleared for agriculture or harvested for timber, fuelwood, and charcoal, primarily to supply urban centers. The resulting human impact on these forest areas has been immense.

Today, only a mere 10% of the original Coastal Forest habitat remains, fragmented into around 400 patches covering approximately 6,250 square kilometers. These fragments are distributed across 787 km in Kenya, 692 km in Tanzania, and at least 4,778 km in Mozambique. Among them, the largest patch in Kenya spans 416 km, while the smallest measures a mere 4 hectares. Regrettably, only 17% of these highly vulnerable and fragmented forest areas are under protection by forest authorities, such as the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve, the Shimba Hills Forest, and the Kaya forests.

The Coastal forests are significant not only for their remarkable biodiversity but also for their myriad uses to local communities. They serve as sources of medicinal plants, fuelwood, woody materials, and sustenance. Moreover, they provide vital ecosystem services, including erosion control, maintenance of ecological cycles, and carbon sequestration. Some of these patches are revered as sacred groves, holding cultural significance.

In essence, these coastal forests, despite their challenges, remain a treasure trove of unique species and centers of remarkable species endemism. They are invaluable for both their ecological and cultural contributions, making their preservation a mission of utmost importance.

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