The Bvumba Highlands are c.25 km south-east of Mutare and form the central section of the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. The mountains are lower than at Nyanga, and the climate is generally warmer. Mists are common and provide an important source of moisture to the forests. Harwin et al. (1994) define the Bvumba Highlands as being land including and above the 1,200 m contour. This contour was chosen as it is the lower boundary for montane birds. The Bvumba mountains are separated from the next series of peaks in the Banti/Himalaya range by the Burma valley (600 m). The Bvumba drops down to the Chicamba Real Dam and Revue river in Mozambique to the east, and to the Save river valley in the west. Much of the Bvumba consists of privately owned farms and smallholdings. There are large commercial Pinus and Acacia plantations.The eastern slopes are well forested, while the western sides are drier and merge into Brachystegia woodland. Bare granite cliffs and scree slopes with scattered Strelitzia occur along the edges of some mountains, with the tops covered in short montane grassland. Much of the forest has been disturbed through felling, some as recently as in the 1940s. The largest area is the well-known Bunga Forest, a mist-forest occurring along a mountain ridge. Bunga has been disturbed through logging in the past. Syzygium is the dominant tree in undisturbed parts,giving way to Aphloia, Macaranga and Maesa in regenerating areas. Dracaena is common in the shrub layer. Lower down and in the drier areas, Albizia gummifera and A. schimperiana are the dominant trees. The edges of the forests are surrounded by a dense bracken-briar scrub of Pteridium, Smilax, Buddleia, Vangueria and Vernonia.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The Bvumba avifauna has been well studied for the past 20 years. A total of 242 species has been recorded, including three species of global conservation concern and three restricted-range species, as well as species characteristic of three biomes. The Bvumba is the type-locality for Prinia robertsi and also for three subspecies of forest bird that are endemic to the Eastern Highlands.
Non-bird biodiversity: The chameleon Rhampholeon marshalli occurs in the Bunga Forest, and several species of regionally rare butterfly occur.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Most of the Bunga Forest is protected within the Bunga Forest Botanical Reserve. As with other high-altitude grasslands in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, the Bvumba grasslands are threatened by the invasion of non-native wattle Acacia and pine Pinus trees. This has obvious implications for Hirundo atrocaerulea. There is only a small population of these birds in the Bvumba, so every effort should be made to protect their grassland habitat. The forests on National Parks Estate are well protected, as are most of the forest patches occurring on private land. Regeneration and expansion of the forests are restricted by agriculture and pine and wattle plantations. The mid-altitude forests on the southern slopes down towards Burma valley are all on private land and worthy of protection as botanical reserves. The recent horticultural expansion of Protea plantations has been beneficial to Promerops gurneyi and probably to Nectarinia kilimensis.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bvumba Highlands. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 12/11/2019.