East African coastal forests

Country/Territory Kenya; Somalia; Tanzania
Area 25,000 km2
Altitude 0 - 500 m
Priority high
Habitat loss major
Knowledge incomplete

General characteristics

This EBA includes the coastal and riverine lowlands of southern Somalia, Kenya and central Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar, and corresponds to the northern part of the Zanzibar–Inhambane regional mosaic of White (1983). A variety of vegetation types is found, including semi-evergreen and deciduous forest, woodland and scrub, much of which has been modified by people harvesting wood products over centuries and by clearance for shifting agriculture (White 1983, S. A. Robertson in litt. 1993).

There is minor overlap between this EBA and the Jubba and Shabeelle valleys (EBA 113) in the lower Jubba valley, but the birds of that area occur in more open, non-forest habitats. The lowland forests at the base of the Usambara mountains are included in the Tanzania-Malawi mountains (EBA 105) because several of the species characteristic of that EBA (which elsewhere occur mainly in montane forest) are found there. However, three of the restricted-range species of the present EBA also occur there, so these forests have affinities with both EBAs.

Restricted-range species

Most of the restricted-range species are found in coastal forest and woodland, but their distributions are incompletely known because many forests are difficult of access and have not been ornithologically surveyed (Waiyaki and Bennun 1996, S. A. Robertson in litt. 1993). Ploceus golandi has only been recorded in the Arabuko-Sokoke forest and immediately to the north in the Dakacha area north of the Sabaki river (L. A. Bennun in litt. 1996), and Otus ireneae and Anthreptes pallidigaster are only known (in this EBA) from Arabuko-Sokoke. Anthus sokokensis has been found in seven coastal forest sites, including Arabuko-Sokoke, and can persist in thickets within degraded forest. Tauraco fischeri is relatively widespread, and is the only species recorded from southern Somalia and Zanzibar. Cisticola restrictus and Apalis chariessa are only recorded (in this EBA) from the lower Tana valley; C. restrictus is known from a small number of specimens collected in semi-arid Acacia scrub and has not been found during recent field surveys (and is perhaps not a valid species: e.g. Lewis and Pomeroy 1989), while A. chariessa has been recorded in gallery forest but is now possibly extinct in this EBA.

Species IUCN Red List category
Fischer's Turaco (Tauraco fischeri) NT
Sokoke Scops-owl (Otus ireneae) EN
White-winged Apalis (Apalis chariessa) NT
Tana River Cisticola (Cisticola restrictus) DD
Amani Sunbird (Hedydipna pallidigaster) EN
Clarke's Weaver (Ploceus golandi) EN
Sokoke Pipit (Anthus sokokensis) EN

Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)
Country IBA Name IBA Book Code
Kenya Arabuko-Sokoke Forest KE007
Kenya Dakatcha Woodland KE008
Kenya Dzombo Hill Forest KE010
Kenya Kaya Gandini KE012
Kenya Lower Tana River Forests KE023
Kenya Marenji Forest KE017
Kenya Shimba Hills KE020
Somalia Aangole - Farbiito SO021
Somalia Far Waamo SO023
Tanzania Bagamoyo District Coastal Forests TZ046
Tanzania East Usambara Mountains TZ070
Tanzania Handeni District Coastal Forests TZ054
Tanzania Jozani Forest TZ057
Tanzania Kisarawe District Coastal Forests TZ047
Tanzania Muheza District Coastal Forests TZ055
Tanzania Pande Game Reserve and Dondwe Coastal Forests TZ049
Tanzania Pangani District Coastal Forests TZ056
Tanzania West Usambara Mountains TZ071

Threat and conservation

The main threat to the EBA is forest loss and degradation. The coastal forests were probably naturally patchily distributed in places with suitable soils and climatic conditions, but exploitation has reduced them to scattered remnants. Many of these are under pressure from agricultural encroachment by an increasing human population, and the extraction of firewood and house-building materials. The expanding tourist industry is taking land for hotel and recreational development, and provides a lucrative market for wood for construction, furniture and carvings (which are exported in bulk); timber is harvested both legally and illegally from protected and unprotected forests (Douthwaite 1987, Varty and Hill 1988, Burgess et al. 1992, Sheil 1992, Waiyaki and Bennun 1996, S. A. Robertson in litt. 1993). Five of the restricted-range birds are threatened because of these pressures on their habitats, and Cisticola restrictus is classified as Data Deficient. Two more-widespread threatened species which occur in this EBA are East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi (classified as Vulnerable) and Spotted Ground-thrush Zoothera guttata (present here as a non-breeder and classified as Endangered).

The 372-km2 Arabuko-Sokoke forest supports five of the restricted-range birds, and has the largest known populations of four threatened species, including Ploceus golandi which is only known from this area. Since 1989 it has been the subject of an integrated forest conservation programme run jointly by the National Museums of Kenya and BirdLife International (Fanshawe 1991, 1993). Although Cisticola restrictus has not been recorded in the Tana valley since 1972, and Apalis chariessa not since 1961, suitable habitat for them may be contained in the Tana River Primate Reserve. The Shimba Hills Nature Reserve and 10 forest reserves in Kenya (in addition to Arabuko-Sokoke) provide some protection to areas of indigenous forest, and several Kayas (small traditionally protected forests) are in the process of gazettement as forest reserves (S. A. Robertson in litt. 1993). The poorly known Boni (joined to Bushbuck National Park in Somalia) and Dodori National Reserves in northern Kenya both contain patches of coastal forest, and the area between them has been designated for gazettement as Lunghi and Boni Forest Reserves; the insecurity of this area has probably helped to protect its wildlife (S. A. Robertson in litt. 1993). The surviving coastal forest sites in Tanzania are currently not well protected (Collar and Stuart 1988, Burgess et al. 1992, Sheil 1992, Burgess and Mlingwa 1993).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: East African coastal forests. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/eba/factsheet/100 on 03/10/2023.