Bugoma Central Forest Reserve is situated on top of escarpment east of and overlooking Lake Albert on the edge of the Western Rift valley between 10071 and 10251N, 300481 and 310071E. It lies to the west of and midway along the main Kyenjojo – Hoima highway, approximately 10km South West of Hoima and 10 Km east of Lake Albert. The forest lies in Buhaguzi and Bugahya counties in the administrative district of Hoima. Most of the forested portion lies in the sub counties of Kabwoya and Kyangwali. To the South is Nkusi River forming the boundary of the reserve and the adjacent Kibale district. To the North Eastern are Bajawe and Wababya central forest reserves whose patches are continuous with Kinyara sugar plantation that reaches Budongo forest Reserve. To the West, is Kanyangwali Refugee Camp that meets the low land of the rift valley.
It occupies about 40, 100 ha and has an altitudinal range of 990-1300m above sea level. The forest type is classified as medium altitude moist semi-deciduous forest with a high biodiversity (Forest Department, 1996). It occupies a gently sloping area, which drains towards Lake Albert in the west. There is only one permanent river, the Nkusi, which forms the southern boundary. The forest is isolated from other protected areas and surrounded by smallholdings and settlement. The soils are mostly deep tropical red earths often lateritic and the climate is tropical with two rainfall peaks from April to May and September to November. Annual mean temperature ranges are 16 to 180C (minimum) and 28 to 290C. The annual rainfall is between 1100 and 1350mm.
The forest lies in irregular blocks intersected by large patches of Hyparrhenia, Pennisetum and Cymbopogon grasslands occupying approximately 18% of the forest area. About half of the forested portion is dominated by iron wood (Crynometra alexandri), a further 38% is mixed Forest. From the 65 forested Protected Areas surveyed for biodiversity in Uganda, Bugoma ranked eleventh in overall biodiversity value and fifteenth in terms of rarity value.
Bugoma Central Forest Reserves has a range of forest dependent and biome-restricted species and with two globally threatened species. Nahan’s Francolin and Grey Parrot are so far the only two globally threatened species found here. The surveys done in the major sites for Nahan’s Francolins in Uganda suggest that Bugoma Forest Reserve contains the highest density of the species. There are also several Guinea-Congo biome-restricted species. The population of Nahan’s Francolins on present knowledge appears crucial to the long term survival of the species (Fuller et al, 2004). Interestingly, researches have shown that the species can disperse across non forest habitat to colonize new areas. Understanding how the species responds to fragmentation is crucial given the kind of habitat change in many of the sites.
Non-bird biodiversity: In addition to birds, Bugoma Central Forest Reserve is also important for other biodiversity, which would contribute to the information for qualification to the Key Biodiversity Areas process. There are a number of tree and mammal species that are listed in IUCN Red Data Books. There are 38 species of mammals of which 4 are globally threatened and 9 species listed in IUCN red list. It has 9 species of reptiles, 20 species of amphibians of which one is an Albertine Rift endemic. Also has 257 species of trees and shrubs of which 7 are Albertine Rift endemics, 12 are globally threatened and 14 listed in IUCN red list. There are 225 species of birds with two globally threatened species (Nahan’s Francolin and Grey Parrot), 292 species of butterflies with 4 Albertine Rift species and 118 species of moths (Forest Department, 1996, Plumptre et al, 2003).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Despite the importance of this forest for biodiversity and community livelihoods, the forest continues to face extensive degradation. Plumptre (2002) estimates that between 1986 and 2002, over 11, 000 ha of forest was cleared within 15 km of Bugoma including within the Reserve. This degradation is driven by a range of factors, including the expansion of small scale subsistence agriculture, large scale commercial agriculture (sugar and tea), and in particular, the tobacco growing industry, which is practiced on a small scale by many (often migrant) farmers. In addition there is a lot of illegal harvesting of hardwood timber species. The rate of degradation in this area has increased due to the improved road network as a result of the activities related to oil development.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
There has been a biodiversity inventory by the Forest Department and the report produced in 1996. This gave a good account on the general biodiversity of the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve. A more specific research on Nahan’s Francolin was done in 2000 (Sande, 2001) culminating into a much more detailed research on the density and population estimates for the species through a joint collaboration of World Pheasant Association, Birdlife International and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). ECOTRUST has been working in the Budongo – Bugoma range for over two years now and still has programmes that address conservation concerns especially on domesticating indiginous tree species on farmlands with funds from carbon trades. They have since negotiated and supported four CFM aggreements. Other research programmes not necessarily on birds have been done by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Jane Goodall Institute (JGI).
The forest is isolated from other protected area systems of Uganda but lies within the Albertine Rift region. The Forest Reserve has been cut off the Budongo forest range with Reserve patches of Bajawe and Wababya Forests being the only corridors remaining. Many small holder and large scale farming especially of sugar cane and tobacco coupled with increased population and demand for settlements are conservation issues that would undermine the protection status of the forest.
Habitat and land use
The forest has been exploited as a source of commercial timber in the recent past. Rattan canes and rubber have been exploited but the extraction stopped. Some logging for sawmills took place in the past, but today only pit sawing occurs. Encroachment by people particularly refugees is evident in this forest (Fuller et al 2004). Recent surveys estimate Bugoma Central Forest Reserve to be 39, 949ha in size. Parts of the forest being lost to other land uses (agriculture and settlement). The reserve presents the most extensive tract of undisturbed forest remaining at this altitude in Uganda. The reserve supports a large number of fauna and flora in the different threat categories and therefore justifying the establishment of a nature reserve by the National Forest Authority (NFA) majorly for conservation. A Collaborative Forest Management Approach is now being supported by ECOTRUST.
The forest is a central forest managed by the National Forest Authority on behalf of the state. This therefore means that the Forest Reserve is owned by the Government of Uganda in trust of the people. Various conservation programmes especially that of ECOTRUST are promoting conservation of the forest by involving the communities in livelihood improvement projects.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bugoma Central Forest Reserve. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 23/09/2020.