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Though tiny and fragmented, the forest remnants that make up the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa contain remarkable levels of biodiversity. The 40,000 cultivated varieties of African violet, which form the basis of a US$100 million global houseplant trade, are all derived from a handful of species found in the coastal Tanzanian and Kenyan forests.

This hotspot is also home to a variety of primate species including three endemic and highly threatened monkey species and two endemic species of bushbabies. The Tana River, which runs through Central Kenya is home to two critically threatened and endemic primates, the Tana River red colobus and the Tana River mangabey.

Agricultural expansion continues to be the biggest threat facing the Coastal Forests of East Africa. Due to poor soil quality and an increasing population trend, subsistence agriculture as well as commercial farming continue to consume more and more of the region's natural habitat.

Hotspot Original Extent (km2) 291,250
Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km2) 29,125
Endemic Plant Species 1,750
Endemic Threatened Birds 2
Endemic Threatened Mammals 6
Endemic Threatened Amphibians 4
Extinct Species† 0
Human Population Density (people/km2) 52
Area Protected (km2) 50,889
Area Protected (km2) in Categories I-IV* 11,343
†Recorded extinctions since 1500. *Categories I-IV afford higher levels of protection.


The Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa Hotspot stretches along the eastern edge of Africa, from small patches of coastal (riverine) forest along the Jubba and Shabelle Rivers in southern Somalia, south through Kenya, where it occurs in a relatively narrow coastal strip of about 40 kilometers in width, except along the Tana River where it extends about 120 km inland. The hotspot stretches farther south into Tanzania (where some outlying forest patches occur about 300 km inland), and along nearly the entire coast of Mozambique, ending at the Limpopo River (south of which is the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot). The hotspot also includes the offshore islands, including Pemba, Zanzibar, Mafia and the Bazarruto Archipelago off Mozambique.

The hotspot's vegetation is a complex mix of moist forests and dry forests, with coastal thicket, fire-climax savanna woodlands, seasonal and permanent swamps, and littoral habitats that include mangrove vegetation along some parts of the coast. Trees dominate the coastal flora, but lianas are also common as are shrubs, herbs, grasses, sedges, ferns, and epiphytes. Coastal forests are found up to 500 meters above sea level, although in Tanzania they occur up to 1,030 meters on Handeni Hill, though this is unusual.

The climate is largely tropical, though some of the southern areas are almost subtropical. The hotspot has high temperatures and high humidity. There are two rainy seasons (long, April-June; short, November-December) in the north, becoming one rainy season (November-April) in the south. Rainfall ranges from about 2,000 millimeters/year on Pemba and Mafia down to about 500 millimeters/year in northern Kenya, although average rainfall in most of the coastal forests is between 900 and 1,400 millimeters/year.

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© John Watkin
The lattice of roots of mangrove forests serve to stabilize coastal areas and act as nursery areas for fish; however, demand for building poles and fuel wood has degraded many areas of mangroves.

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