The mountain and sub-montane habitats of the Albertine Rift are highly threatened by conversion to other forms of land-use – principally to agriculture – by an expanding rural human population. Analysis of satellite images shows that, over the past 20 years, the highest proportion of forest loss has occurred in Uganda, and the least in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Over this period, more than 1,500 km2 of forest has been converted into other land uses between the northern end of Lake Albert and the northern end of Lake Tanganyika.

The afroalpine habitats are not directly threatened, as they are too high for agricultural use and are protected within national parks; they are, however, certainly affected by climate change.

WWF has conducted an analysis of the recession of Ruwenzori glaciers and documented that there are shrunk from 650ha in 1906 to a mere 108ha in 2005.

Current threats to habitats and species are particularly severe in the DRC, linked to the aftermath of recent conflicts in that country.

Populations of Mountain Gorilla, Eastern Lowland Gorilla, Chimpanzee, and Elephant are all impacted significantly by conflicts in the region, and all of these species are threatened with extinction.

Forest loss is the major threat to the other endemic and globally-threatened species of the Albertine Rift. Socio-economic analyses indicate that, as per-capita income declines, people clear forests for agricultural activities and fuel-wood resources, resulting in a deterioration of forest cover. The problems of forest loss are therefore closely linked to food and rural poverty issues.

As the countries of the Albertine Rift are all poor, and with poverty having increased markedly in the areas affected by conflict (especially in the DRC), high rates of forest loss and degradation are to be expected.

As countries emerge from periods of conflict, opportunities exist to re-establish a conservation presence in the region.

Given the exceptional montane and afroalpine habitats of the Albertine Rift, its large number of endemic and globally-threatened species, and the threats posed to these habitats and species, the WWF Eastern African Regional Programme Office (WWF-EARPO) has made the Albertine Rift a key area of programme focus, through its Albertine Rift Montane Forests Ecoregion programme.