The Ufipa plateau occupies a section of high ground between the two arms of the Great Rift Valley in south-western Tanzania. To the west lies the southern end of Lake Tanganyika at 773 m and to the north-east Lake Rukwa (TZ033) at 793 m. Between these two huge bodies of water the Ufipa rises to 2,418 m at Malonje mountain with the plateau proper forming an extensive block above 2,000 m. Much of the plateau drains south-east and hence into the Rukwa valley. The only open water of any consequence on the plateau is Lake Sundu and the adjacent Kale swamp which lie to the south of the high ground and which drain into Lake Tanganyika. Many of the lower areas are covered in miombo woodland, mature on broken ground unsuitable for agriculture, but more often of poorer quality where secondary growth occurs, following shifting cultivation. Between the higher plateau and Lake Tanganyika there are numerous waterlogged valleys fringed with extensive stands of riverine forest which support bird populations more characteristic of central than of eastern Africa.The IBA is comprised of three separate components. These are: (1) Kalambo River Forest Reserve (41,958 ha), Tanda, Kaye, Vyula and Tambi mbugas (water-receiving depressions covered with grassland and wooded grassland on seasonally saturated, black, cracking, clay soils) which lie below the escarpment adjacent to the eastern boundary of the Forest Reserve, and Ipeta swamp to the north of the mbugas (total area c.53,000 ha); (2) Mbizi Forest Reserve (17,373 ha) above the town of Sumbawanga, the region’s administrative centre; (3) Mumba grasslands (c.40,000 ha), boundaries ill-defined. Other areas which may merit inclusion are Lake Sundu, Kale swamp and the adjacent Mninga and Mwaya Hills (c.3,800 ha) and parts of the Sasi river valley.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. There are records of Circus macrourus, while Grus carunculatus occurred until the 1970s, when the last pairs were shot. The population of Ardeotis denhami on the higher parts of the plateau around Mumba is thought to be some 50 birds, probably the largest in Tanzania and likely to be associated with the much larger population in Zambia. The Ufipa plateau and its fringing habitats are the northern limits of many central African species in Tanzania such as Mirafra angolensis, Phylloscopus laurae and Lagonosticta nitidula. The plateau is the eastern limit for Serinus frontalis and Turdus pelios and the western limit of the restricted-range Phyllastrephus alfredi and Cisticola nigriloris. The highland grassland population of Macronyx fuellebornii links populations in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania (TZ061, TZ066, TZ069) with those in southern Democratic Republic of Congo and northern Angola. Tricholaema frontata inhabits the stunted miombo woodlands on the higher ground, overlooking populations of the ecologically segregated, yet morphologically similar, Tricholaema diademata in the Acacia woodlands on the floor of the Rift Valley adjacent to Lake Rukwa. The numerous shallow flood-plains support populations of Ortygospiza locustella and Macronyx ameliae while riverine forest holds Sheppardia bocagei and Anthreptes anchietae. The adjacent Brachystegia-dominated woodland has Cercotrichas barbata, Muscicapa boehmi, Salpornis spilonotus and Sylvietta ruficapilla. Lake Sundu holds small breeding populations of Podiceps cristatus (an increasingly rare bird in East Africa), Netta erythrophthalma and Glareola pratincola. Ploceus reichardi may be found to be occur in the Sasi river area.
Non-bird biodiversity: The Ufipa plateau is botanically significant and holds several endemics. Most larger mammals are believed to be have been hunted to local extinction.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The only part of this site which benefits from any protection is Mbizi Forest Reserve; the plateau itself is entirely unprotected. There has been very substantial loss of habitat throughout this site and theft of orchid bulbs and fire are all continuing problems.