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Location Eritrea, Northern Red Sea Zone
Central coordinates 38o 47.40' East  15o 47.10' North
IBA criteria A1, A3
Area 130,000 ha
Altitude 900 - 2,600m
Year of IBA assessment 2001





Site description The site, also known as ‘the Eritrean Green Belt’ (or by the Italian name ‘Pendice Orientale’), lies between about 20 and 100 km north of Asmara on the coastal (eastern) escarpment of the Central Plateau. It contains the only remaining mixed evergreen tropical woodland in Eritrea. There is magnificent mountain scenery with sheer drops, rock precipices, spurs and deep valleys cutting into the mountains up to high altitudes. The whole montane area is frequently in cloud and there are profuse lichens in some areas. The highest upland areas consist of rough, stony moorland, rocky hillsides and peaks, scrubby tussock-grassland (with exotic cacti including Opuntia vulgaris), and Juniperus procera woodland. Riparian vegetation includes willows in the deep valleys. Below about 2,500 m, Juniperus procera woodland with shrubby undergrowth dominates. Below c.2,100–2,300 m the vegetation is Olea africana-dominated evergreen woodland and upland scrub (Olea, Euphorbia, Dodonaea, Opuntia, Rosa and occasional Acacia spp.), which gives way, at around 1,400 m, to Combretum forest, with Terminalia and Anogeissus spp. This continues down to c.300 m at the edge of the Eastern Plain. Riparian woodland along watercourses in this zone includes Acacia, Ficus, Rhus, Acokanthera, Ricinus, Gymnosporia and Buddleia spp., with dense mats of the herb Flaveria australasiatica adjacent to rivers at intermediate altitudes after rain.

Because of the huge altitudinal gradient (from 2,600 m at the top of the massif, dropping to about 400 m over a horizontal distance of less than 15 km), the site contains a great diversity of climates and habitats. For five months of the year (October to March) the upper slopes can be covered continuously in mist and drizzle. It tends to be drier and sunnier from March to September, but the site can also receive rainfall during the ‘main rains’ sweeping down from the plateau between mid-June and mid-September. There are areas of poor agricultural land among the moorland, scrub and juniper, with rocky pastureland and terraced fields where wheat, barley and taff (Eragrostis tef) are cultivated during the wetter months (about 10% of the land appeared cultivated in one area at about 2,100 m: Butynski 1995). There are scattered Eucalyptus plantations and, at lower levels (in the Olea africana-dominated woodland), some cultivation of maize, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, citrus fruits and coffee. There is also some (probably seasonal) grazing of livestock, particularly at higher levels on the plateau and during the wetter months.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Erckel's Francolin Francolinus erckelii resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni passage  1996  present [units unknown]  A1  Least Concern 
Arabian Bustard Ardeotis arabs resident  2000    Near Threatened 
Rouget's Rail Rougetius rougetii resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Near Threatened 
Dusky Turtle-dove Streptopelia lugens resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Black-winged Lovebird Agapornis taranta resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
White-cheeked Turaco Tauraco leucotis resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Montane Nightjar Caprimulgus poliocephalus resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Black-billed Woodhoopoe Phoeniculus somaliensis resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Hemprich's Hornbill Tockus hemprichii resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-breasted Barbet Trachyphonus margaritatus resident  2000    Least Concern 
Abyssinian Woodpecker Dendropicos abyssinicus resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Boran Cisticola Cisticola bodessa resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
White-rumped Babbler Turdoides leucopygia resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
White-breasted White-eye Zosterops abyssinicus resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Chestnut-bellied Starling Lamprotornis pulcher resident  2000    Least Concern 
Somali Starling Onychognathus blythii resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Starling Onychognathus tenuirostris resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Little Rock-thrush Monticola rufocinereus resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Shining Sunbird Nectarinia habessinica resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Swee Waxbill Estrilda melanotis resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Brown-rumped Seedeater Serinus tristriatus resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Least Concern 
Serinus striolatus resident  2000  present [units unknown]  A3  Not Recognised 

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   32%
Shrubland   6%
Rocky areas   1%
Grassland   60%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
not utilised -

Other biodiversity The Semenawi Bahri is said to contain populations of Tragelaphus strepsiceros (LR/cd), T. scripta (LR/nt), Oreotragus oreotragus (LR/cd) and a species of Cephalophus duiker. Particularly high densities of baboons Papio hamadryas (LR/nt) were found in this area (and at sites ER006, ER007 and ER008) in 1997/98 (Zinner et al. 1999). Due to the diversity of altitudes, climates and habitats, it is probably one of the areas of highest species diversity in Eritrea and is known to contain species with small range distributions in Eritrea and some at the northern limit of their distributional range.

References Butynski (1995), DOE (1999), EAE (1995), FAO (1997), Murdoch (1998), Smith (1951b, 1957).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Semenawi Bahri. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/04/2014

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