IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (1996)
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Area: 19,000 ha
Site description (baseline)
This site comprises the extremely steep escarpment and a narrow strip of the plateau overlooking the Afar, from just north of Ankober, north to the area above Debre Sina in the vicinity of the Tarma Ber. Ankober is on an ancient route from the lowlands of the Afar up onto the central Ethiopian plateau. The topography of the area is steep and dissected by ravines and gorges through which rivers and streams tumble down the eastern escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. The altitude ranges from 1,650 m near Tach Gorebela to 3,700 m near Kundi on the plateau. Man has for a long time heavily impacted the natural vegetation of most of this area. What little natural vegetation remains is to be found on the very steep sides of cliffs and inaccessible valley bottoms. Gosh Meda is a narrow strip at the eastern edge of the plateau, where the land is mostly over 2,800 m and peaks rise to 3,500 m. The eastern escarpment begins dramatically with sheer cliffs and steep slopes up to 1,000 m high. The vegetation is moist to dry Afro-alpine moorland with some stunted Erica arborea and shrubby Helichrysum spp. in sheltered places between rocks. In the open areas, over rocks and on the cliffs, many plants (such as Festuca spp., other grasses and Sedum spp.) grow in clumps, tussocks or cushions as an adaptation to the extreme of climate. Until recently, most of the area was used only for grazing cattle and sheep. However, since the 1970s, increasing expanses of moorland have been cultivated for barley.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This site supports the only known population of Serinus ankoberensis, a species confined to areas between 2,800 m and 3,750 m along the escarpment rim from Ankober to Tarma Ber, a distance of c.20 km. S. ankoberensis is typically not uncommon along the broken hilltops, and on the steeply shelving, near-vertical cliffs of the escarpment. The species also makes use of land adjacent to the escarpment edge, feeding on the uneven terrain of recently ploughed land. Breeding occurs at Gosh Meda between October and February, but it may breed in any season following heavy rain. The restricted-range Myrmecocichla melaena occurs in small numbers on rocky terrain adjacent to Gosh Meda, and in ravines and gorges at other points along the escarpment edge. Other species of interest recorded at this site include Gypaetus barbatus, Buteo oreophilus, Falco peregrinus, Accipiter rufiventris, Tachymarptis melba, Schoutedenapus myoptilus, Hirundo rupestris and Monticola solitarius.
Non-bird biodiversity: Theropithecus gelada (LR/nt) is still numerous at the top of the cliffs. A population of Canis simensis (CR) in the high-altitude area of Ankober was last recorded in 1991.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Ankober - Debre Sina escarpment. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/6252 on 01/06/2023.