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Ecosystem change and conservation
- Biodiversity in Africa

In comparison with most other parts of the world, such as eastern Europe, North America and Southeast Asia, Africa’s biodiversity is still in good condition. Contemporary biodiversity patterns are strongly influenced by land-use patterns of mammalian herbivores and people. However:

  • Approximately half of Africa’s terrestrial eco-regions have lost more than 50 percent of their area to cultivation, degradation or urbanization.
  • Eco-regions that have gone through more than a 95 percent transformation include the Mandara Plateau mosaic, Cross-Niger transition forests, Jos Plateau forest-grassland mosaic, and Nigerian lowland forests.
  • Nine other eco-regions have lost more than 80 percent of their habitat, including the species-rich lowland Fynbos and Renosterveld and the forests and grasslands of the Ethiopian Highlands.
  • The Mediterranean woodlands and forests have lost more than 75 percent of their original habitat, and the few remaining blocks of habitat are highly fragmented.

The challenges and opportunities associated with human activities are also considered in relation to specific themes in the other chapters of this section.

Africa has over 2 million km2 of protected areas (an area four times the size of Spain). The eco-regions under the best protection tend to be the savannah habitats, particularly those of Eastern and Southern Africa. Charismatic animals, such as large mammals, are much better covered by the current network of protected areas than, for example, plants. Many range-restricted species are not adequately included in these areas.

The least protected areas are found in Northern Africa, Madagascar, the drier parts of South Africa, and in the most heavily deforested parts of Western and Eastern Africa. Of the 119 ecoregions, 89 have less than the 10 percent of their area officially protected, which is the guideline suggested by the 2010 biodiversity targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Some of the least well-protected eco-regions are also those with high biodiversity values, including Mt Cameroon and the Bioko area, the Eastern Arc forests, the Succulent Karoo, the Ethiopian montane forests, the lowland Fynbos and Renosterveld, the western Guinean lowland forests, the east African montane forests, the Albertine Rift montane forests, and the Northern Zanzibar-Inhambane coastal forest mosaic.

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