Cameroon Highlands Forests - A Global Ecoregion

Tree silhouette in mist, Mt Kupe, Cameroon. rel=
Tree silhouette in mist, Mt Kupe, Cameroon.
© WWF-Canon / Frederick J. WEYERHAEUSER

About the Area

This ecoregion encompasses the mountains and highland areas of the border region between Nigeria and Cameroon. Most of the ecoregion lies within a narrow rectangle of 180 km by 625 km, oriented southwest to northeast and originating about 50 km inland of Mount Cameroon.It covers the Rumpi Hills, the Bakossi Mountains, Mount Nlonako, Mount Kupe and Mount Manengouba. Mt. Cameroon is an active volcano that sits near the coast and rises from this mountain range, but is considered a separate ecoregion from the older, non-volcanic Cameroonian Highlands Forests.

At 3,011 m, Mount Oku is the highest peak in this ecoregion. The remainder could be anywhere between 800-2,600 m in elevation. In the majority of cases, however, the lower boundary of these forests is now determined by conversion to agricultural land.

Mean maximum temperatures are below 20°C due to the effects of altitude. Areas close to the coast experience rainfall of around 4,000 mm per annum while those inland get 1,800 mm or less.

Fertile soil (a legacy of the volcanic past) combined with adequate rainfall makes the region ideally suited for agricultural use thus contributing to a high human population density. However, once cleared of protective forests, these soils turn dry, making them barren and useless for agriculture.
Size:
39,000 sq. km (15,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Western Africa: Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species

The Cameroonian Highlands Forests ecoregion occurs in patches at various altitudes on mountaintops and ridges. Hence, even the native plants and animal species are distributed in certain habitats or between narrow altitudinal bands with more endemic species inhabiting the larger, more isolated patches.

At least 50 species and 3 families of plants are strictly endemic and 50 more are near endemic to Mt. Cameroon and associated lowland forests. Many of these endemic plant species reflect a recent evolutionary history, developing unique characteristics and adaptations in relation to the emergence of Mount Cameroon. In Mount Kupe is present a wild coffee plant which believed to be of more value than the robusta and arabica coffee species common in Cameroon.

Among the numerous endemic species are birds such as Green longtail (Urolais epichlora), White-tailed warbler (Poliolais lopezi), Mount Cameroon francolin (Francolinus camerunensis), Fernando Po speirops (Batis poensis), Bannerman's turaco (Tauraco bannermani); reptiles such as Chamaeleo montium, Chamaeleo quadricornis, Hydraethiops laevis, Leptosiaphos ianthinoxantha; and mammals such as Preuss's monkey (Cercopithecus preussi), and Northern needle-clawed bushbaby (Euoticus pallidus).

Very high levels of endemism are observed among amphibians, with nearly 40 species as strict endemics.

Eleven small mammal species are considered strictly endemic to this region. The region is also home to some larger mammals like the drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus, EN), Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), and the African elephants (Loxodonta africana spp). In addition, there is also an isolated population of an endemic subspecies of lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli, EN).
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
African elephant, Loxodonta africana.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Threats

Forest loss caused by unsustainable exploitation of firewood, overgrazing, fire damage and agricultural encroachment is the main threat to this ecoregion. Hunting also threatens the remaining larger mammals. This is one of the least well-protected ecoregions in Africa. No part of this ecoregion is under formal protected status in Cameroon, although local traditional rulers still exert considerable authority over land use.

The main section of Bakossi (550 km²) has been proposed as "Protection Forest", banning all logging. Kupe has been proposed as a "Strict Nature Reserve", while the forest at Oku has some form of protection and the boundaries are well demarcated.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Meg GAWLER
Women plant rice on slopes that have been cleared and burned (tavy method).
© WWF-Canon / Meg GAWLER

WWF’s work

The WWF Cameroon Programme Office was opened in Douala in 1990. The protection of biodiversity through the creation and management of a viable and representative network of protected areas and other important biological sites is one of the principle strategies for achieving WWF's Mission in Cameroon.

With the support of WWF and others, Cameroon is making progress in the establishment of a national protected area network that is representative of its biodiversity. A number of new national parks and reserves are being created and a number of biologically important forest and montane areas are being established as community managed reserves.

Ecoregion based conservation planning demands for an ecological audit (review) of the existing protected area system as well as the identification of important biological sites to be included in the conservation effort.

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