Tanzania is the largest of the East African nations which possesses a natural variety from the snow-capped majesty of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain on earth, to the forested shores of Lake Tanganyika, the world’s longest, second-deepest and least-polluted freshwater body, this is a land of astonishing scenic beauty.
Tanzania is home to more than 10,000 species of plants, 316 mammals, 1,056 species of birds, 335 reptiles, 116 amphibians, and 331 species of fish, with extensive forest cover, most of which is savanna woodland and montane forest, though there are scattered patches of lowland forest. Much of this forest has high biodiversity and endemism; especially in the southern highlands region. However, these forests are increasingly threatened by fuel wood collection by the rapidly expanding population, as well as by commercial felling of timber and expanding agriculture which makes up 58 percent of the GNP (GEF 2002).
Despite 40% of the country being preserved in parks, forests are being reduced rapidly in some regions. Overall forest cover fell by 15 percent between 1990 and 2005, but deforestation rates have increased significantly since 2000.
The bulk of the Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests hotspot is in its western expansion in Tanzania, which takes in the Eastern Arc Mountains and the water catchment system of the Rufiji River. The main mountains are North and South Pare, West and East Usambara, North and South Nguru, Ukaguru, Uluguru, Rubeho, and Udzungwas (WWF 2001). Tanzania has no coastal forests larger than 40 km2 (WWFUS 2003). Most are either forest reserves (80%) or are on public land (20%) with no protection status (WWF-EARPO 2002).
Female Barbour's Forest Tree frog, Leptopelis barbouri, a large tree frog endemic to the Eastern Arc Mountains. Image courtesy of James Vonesh, Ph.D./VCU.