The Fogera plains lie to the east of Lake Tana, near the town of Woreta on the road from Bahir Dar to Gondar, c.582 km from Addis Ababa. This area mainly consists of a flat, open plain across which the Rib river flows into Lake Tana. The Gumera river forms the southern boundary. Both rivers originate on the high plateau to the east, and as they reach the plains the gradient decreases and they form meanders. During and after the rainy season, as the Rib river approaches the level of Lake Tana, water overflows its banks and floods the surrounding area. The perennial Gumera river also overflows its banks as it approaches the lake, but causes less flooding than the Rib. A perennial swamp has been formed around the mouths of these rivers. Lake Tana, which forms the western boundary of this area, also floods up to 1.5 km inland during the rainy season. During the dry season, the water retreats and the flooded area is used for seasonal grazing and retreat cultivation. The extent of the marsh depends on the amount of rain, as no other surface water feeds it. The shoreline of the lake supports well-established papyrus beds 4 m tall. Further inland the vegetation is dominated by sedges, reed grasses and bulrushes, along with swamp grasses such as Echinochloa spp. and Cynodon aethiopicus that make very good grazing in the dry season. Patches of mixed small- and broadleaved trees and bushes are found around churches on small, rocky hills near the lake shore. These patches contain trees such as Albizia spp., Croton macrostachyus, Cordia africana, Olea europaeacuspidata, figs and Phoenix reclinata. The more shrubby areas comprise species typical of degraded forest, with Carissa edulis, small Acacia spp., Rosa abyssinica and Dodonea angustifolia. A variety of plants are found in and around homesteads, including Arundo donax, Guizotia scabra, Solanum spp. and other broadleaved plants. Papyrus is essential for making the local reed boats called ‘tankwas’. Other reeds and bulrushes are used for matting, fencing and roofing, but as soon as farmers can afford it they use corrugated iron or aluminium sheets for roofing. The plains support a large population of an indigenous breed of cattle, Fogera, named after the area. Cattle-farming is still a major activity, but crop cultivation has become increasingly important. In the 1970s, an agricultural research station was established at Woreta to promote rice as a crop. Although the rice grew well, there was little market for it, as local mills were not equipped to husk it. However, farmers have expanded cultivation of other crops, particularly shallots and other vegetables, which are otherwise traditionally grown with supplementary irrigation.
See Box for key species. This site is important for a number of globally threatened species: Falco naumanni and Circus macrourus, which occur on spring and autumn migration; Grus carunculatus, which is uncommon; and Phoenicopterus minor, whose numbers fluctuate unpredictably. A survey in March 1996 found Gallinago media in the swampy grasslands, and it may also be expected on autumn migration when the habitat would be more suitable. The marshes are important for waterbirds including Grus pavonina and G. grus, and may also be suitable for Sarothrura rufa and Sarothrura ayresi. Fig trees at the site are popular with Poicephalus flavifrons. In addition, one species of the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome occurs; see Table 3.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The marshes have decreased in extent due to drainage and the recent expansion of seasonal cultivation. The forest patches are severely impacted by heavy human use. Local farmers consider the waterbirds to be pests, and will use any means to try and eradicate them. This negative attitude towards birds in general, and in particular cranes and geese, stems from their links with crop damage: Grus grus can strip fields of ripe sorghum bare, and geese will systematically crop fields of sprouting cereals. Farmers also believe that bird droppings foul their water supply.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Fogera plains. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 20/01/2020.