The Guinean Forests of West Africa Hotspot
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The Guinean Forests of West Africa Hotspot encompasses all of the lowland forests of political West Africa, stretching from Guinea and Sierra Leone eastward to the Sanaga River in Cameroon. The hotspot can be divided into two subregions. The first, referred to as the ‘Upper Guinean Forests’, stretches from Guinea in the west, through Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and, marginally, into Benin. The second subregion, the ‘Lower Guinean Forests’, covers much of southern Nigeria, extends into southwestern Cameroon, and also includes São Tomé and Príncipe and the offshore islands of Equatorial Guinea.
The Hotspot supports impressive levels of biodiversity, including numerous endemic species, making it a conservation priority at the global scale. The hotspot is ranked among the world’s foremost regions for mammalian diversity.
In terms of plants, approximately 9,000 species of vascular plant are believed to occur in the hotspot, including 1,800 endemic species. The hotspot also supports an exceptional diversity of other terrestrial species. There are 416 mammal species (representing nearly a quarter of the mammals native to continental Africa), 917 bird species, 107 reptile species and 269 amphibian species within the hotspot boundary. Of these species, 65 mammals, 48 birds, 20 reptiles and 118 amphibians are thought to be endemic to the hotspot.
At least 936 species of plants and animals found in the hotspot are globally threatened, and this number is likely to increase as more species are assessed. The hotspot is among the world’s top priorities for primate conservation, with five Critically Endangered and 21 Endangered species.
In addition to their importance for biodiversity, the hotspot's forests contribute to mediating climate change at a global scale. They also provide the hotspot countries’ combined population of 282.4 million with timber and other building materials, fuel for cooking, food and medicine.
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Threats to biodiversity conservation in the hotspot
Many of the threats to biodiversity in the Guinean Forests are linked, either directly or indirectly, to a high incidence of poverty, political instability, unsustainable practices and/or civil conflict. They include:
- Rapid loss of forest cover for agricultural and infrastructural development activities.
- Wildlife species degradation due to excessive hunting for bush meat and poaching for trophies.
- Climate change
- Invasive and other problematic species
- Insecurity, disease and conflict
- Poverty and unsustainable biological resource use
Click here for more details on threats to its conservation