Atewa Range Forest Reserve

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Atewa Range Forest Reserve is located near Kibi town, to the west of the Accra–Kumasi road. This range of hills, aligned approximately north–south, are steep-sided with more or less flat summits. They represent the last remains of the Tertiary peneplain that once covered southern Ghana and are characterized by very ancient bauxitic soils. The reserve lies within the moist semi-deciduous forest zone. About 17,400 ha of the reserve is upland evergreen forest. Atewa is, together with Tano Offin (GH023), one of only two Forest Reserves in the country at which this forest-type occurs and these two reserves together hold c.95% of the upland evergreen forest in the country. The diverse flora contains submontane elements, with characteristic herbaceous species, and abundant and diverse epiphytic and terrestrial ferns; many plant species found here are not known to occur elsewhere in Ghana. The bovals (seasonal marshy grasslands on bauxite outcrops), swamps and thickets that occur here are also thought to be nationally unique.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The avifauna includes a significant number of nationally rare species such as Columba unicincta, Cercococcyx olivinus, Smithornis capensis, Indicator exilis, I. maculatus, Bleda syndactyla and Trochocercus nitens. The raptors Urotriorchis macrourus, Polyboroides typus, Accipiter tachiro and Stephanoetus coronatus still occur.

Non-bird biodiversity: Atewa forests contain many plant species not found elsewhere in the country; Celtis durandii was recorded in Ghana from this area. Six endemics butterfly species Mylothris atewa, Deudorix sp. nov., Cupidesthes sp. nov., Anthene aurea, A. helpsi and Acraea kibi, from a total of 460 also occur here—the largest number of species yet recorded from a single small forest anywhere in West Africa. Mammals include Cephalophus dorsalis (LR/nt) and Neotragus pygmaeus (LR/nt).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site is an important watershed and was designated as a Forest Reserve in 1926 to protect the headwaters of the Birim, Densu and Ayensu rivers and their tributaries, and also to maintain forest-cover on the steep slopes of the hills, thereby preventing excessive erosion. The site is traditionally owned by the Akim Abuakwa Traditional Area but, as a Forest Reserve, it is under the administration of the Forestry Department. Atewa is classified as a Condition 3 reserve (GHI 84). Between 1959 and 1975, 4.1% of the area of Atewa was converted to Cedrela plantation under the taungya system. The lower slopes are severely degraded and covered with abandoned farms. Mining and illegal logging constitute the major threat to the site. The last official logging was recorded in 1991, but illegal logging continues. The reserve has gold and bauxite deposits. There is evidence of gold prospecting and illegal gold mining. Although the bauxite deposits are of low grade, so mining is currently considered uneconomic, there is no guarantee that this situation will not change. The Forest Reserve has been proposed as a high-priority Hill Sanctuary. In 1994, the reserve was designated as a Special Biological Protection Area by the Ghana Forestry Department and has, under the country’s system of classification of Forest Reserves, recently been proposed as a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area. Atewa is, without doubt, one of the Forest Reserves most meriting an improvement in protection status.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Atewa Range Forest Reserve. Downloaded from on 01/02/2023.