Metu–Gore–Tepi is a general name used for the forests found along the western edge of the plateau between Metu and Tepi in Illubabor Zone. Metu is the zonal capital. The area includes the following National Forest Priority Areas: Syllem–Wangas, Sheko, Yeki and Godere. Between Metu and Tepi, the western edge of the plateau drops from 2,600 m in a series of escarpments down to 1,000 m at the edge of the Gambella plains. Most of the area is formed of black basalt. The Baro and Gilo rivers have their headwaters in these forests and have cut deep valleys through the escarpment. The main habitats along the escarpment are forest, grassland, wetland and cultivated areas. There are two types of wet forest on the western escarpment: transitional forest at 500–1,500 m and Afromontane forest at 1,500–2,600 m. The transitional forest is a humid, broadleaf forest, rich in tree species (at least 90). A number of these trees are found in Ethiopia only in this forest-type, the most important of these being Aningeria altissima. In the Afromontane forest, Aningeria adolfi-friederici is the largest and most important timber species, with some Podocarpus falcatus found at the higher altitudes. Floristically this is the richest forest-type in Ethiopia, with over 100 tree species and a diverse understorey. Forest cover is not continuous and, particularly on the flatter areas, there are extensive areas of grassland. Various Acacia spp. dominate the forest–grassland ecotone. Basalt forms an impervious edge to several of the valleys resulting in swamps and lakes (e.g. Lake Bishanwaha) which add considerably to the area’s biodiversity. Several aquatic plant species are found only in these wetlands. The biggest employers in the area are the coffee and tea estates. However, most of the area is occupied by peasant farmers who cultivate maize and root crops, keep bees, and collect and/or cultivate forest species, particularly coffee and the endemic spice Aframomum corrorima.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. Due to their isolation, the forests of south-west Ethiopia are relatively depauperate in terms of their avifauna. However, small populations of Rougetius rougetii and Macronyx flavicollis occur, along with many other Afrotropical Highlands biome species. Two Ethiopian endemics, Poicephalus flavifrons and Dendropicos abyssinicus have been recorded. Species otherwise rarely recorded in Ethiopia include Podica senegalensis (at Lake Bishanwaha), Cossypha niveicapilla, Nectarinia chloropygia and Euplectes gierowii.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The greatest threat to these forests is the development of estates growing cash-crops. Forest near Gore has been cleared and replaced by tea plantations, and near Tepi the coffee estates started in the 1970s are expanding. There is now a proposal to clear another area of primary forest near Tepi for a rubber estate. In the 1980s, local villages expanded with settlers from northern Ethiopia. This not only increased the population, but also introduced new skills and attitudes such as the increased use of timber for making household items to sell in the expanding urban centres. There are at least five sawmills in the region and the forests are being logged without any management plan having been made. Increased access to a cash economy has also affected the traditional use of the wetlands. In the past, the areas around the lakes and swamps were cultivated only as the water dropped naturally through the dry season. However, valleys are now being drained so that vegetable crops can be grown more continuously and over a wider area in order to supply the markets in Metu and Jimma.