Biodiversity Conservation – the importance of Uganda
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on earth that includes ecosystem diversity, species diversity and genetic diversity. Uganda is incredibly rich in biodiversity given its small size in Africa. More than half of Africa’s 2,000 bird species for instance can be found here (1,020), about 10% of the world’s bird species, and the numbers of mammals (345), reptiles (142), amphibians (86),fish (501), butterflies (1,242) and higher plants (4,500) are similarly high. Western Uganda forms the northern part of the Albertine Rift region, which has more threatened and endemic vertebrates than anywhere else on the continent (www.albertinerift.org). There are many taxa that have not been surveyed but given the richness of habitats in the country it is likely that species numbers will be relatively high.
The variety of species and ecosystems and the resulting genetic diversity to be found in Uganda all present economic opportunities as well as being of conservation value. The variety of ecosystems, large mammals and birds are a major attraction for tourism and the numbers of tourists visiting this country continue to increase.In 2012 Uganda was voted the best destination according to the Lonely Planet website because of the variety of activities and scenery on offer. Genetic diversity also has the potential to be of economic importance, particularly for the pharmaceutical industry, who are working with traditional healers in Uganda to test the medicinal properties of plants.
What WCS is doing to conserve biodiversity in Uganda
Biodiversity surveys: Many of Uganda’s Protected Areas have not been well surveyed for their biodiversity. WCS has therefore spearheaded surveys of the forested and savanna-protected areas in the Albertine Rift region to identify what species are present in each Protected Area and to identify those that are endemic or threatened. These surveys have provided point location data for species across thousands of sampling locations.
Conservation planning: With the increasing biodiversity loss globally due to competing land-use options and given the limited resources available for biodiversity conservation, maximizing conservation benefits has become of paramount importance. Recent advances in the field of conservation planning have made it possible to quantitively identify areas in which to focus conservation efforts and the trade offs with other potential land use options in a particular landscape.
Threats to Biodiversity Conservation
The main threat to biodiversity conservation in Uganda is the increasing human population and the consequent demand for land. Competing land-use options (agriculture, timber harvesting, mining, oil and gas exploration) mean that biodiversity is oven overlooked. Where once human settlements and agricultural areas were islands within a large mosaic of natural habitat, today the reverse is true. Over-fishing, disease and climate change have been and may be responsible for the decline of some species or their extinction. It is therefore critical to conserve Uganda’s remaining protected areas.