Uzumara Mountain caps a peak (1,920 m) rising from the North Viphya mountains, a narrow dissected plateau running north–south between 1,500 and 1,700 m, whose eastern slopes drop steeply to Lake Malawi. It is separated from the Nyika Plateau to the north-west by the South Rukuru Valley. Most of the forest is in one block that extends on the north-east slopes down to 1,600 m or 1,700 m; the drier southern slopes support a few broad gullies of forest between open ridges of Protea grassland and montane shrubland. It is a fairly impressive example of tall Ficalhoa–Ocotea montane rainforest, with a locally impenetrable understorey of Acanthaceae shrubs. Several other peaks rise above the plateau (most notably Chimaliro at 2,050 m), each supporting a patch of montane rainforest, but Uzumara is the largest and most luxuriant. Much of the rest of the plateau, which was once covered mostly with miombo woodland and mid-altitude forest, is now settled by farmers who have cleared extensive areas of vegetation.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Uzumara’s avifauna is broadly similar to that of the eastern escarpment forest of Nyika National Park (site MW002), 15 km to the north-west. Some 101 species have been recorded. Several, especially Sheppardia sharpei and Illadopsis pyrrhoptera, occur at higher densities in Uzumara than in the colder forest of East Nyika. The Sheppardia reaches densities of 1 pair/ha on the north-eastern slopes and is at the southern limit of its distribution here, as is also Linurgus olivaceus. Cisticola nigriloris, a species of forest regrowth, reaches its southern limit of distribution at nearby Chimaliro Mountain.
Non-bird biodiversity: Vegetation: an epiphytic orchid, otherwise known from southern Tanzania, Tridactyle virginea, occurs nowhere else in Malawi. A tree recorded from only a handful of montane localities in Africa, Ternstroemiapolypetala, is not uncommon near streams. Two species of forest tree, a Strychnos and a Memecylon, represent new, unnamed species (for which fertile material is still needed). Mammals: the squirrel Paraxerus palliatus reaches its northern limit in the country. Butterflies: three species reach their southern limits in Uzumara (Papilio bromius, P. jacksoni and Charaxes nyikensis).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Uzumara was set up as a Forest Reserve in 1948. The approach to the forest is up a very steep slope, and the access road is really usable only during the dry season (May–October). Some timber was removed commercially in the recent past (evidence of saw-pits), but the forest is now little used. The danger facing Uzumara is the rapid expansion of agricultural activities on the steep grass- and brush-covered slopes around the forest, including the damage caused by fires at forest edges.