Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 1103–1118 | Cite as

Amphibian Diversity in East African Biodiversity Hotspots: Altitudinal and latitudinal Patterns

  • J. C. Poynton
  • S. P. Loader
  • E. Sherratt
  • B. T. Clarke


The Eastern Arc mountain chain and adjoining coastal forests of Tanzania and Kenya have been listed as world biodiversity hotspots. We report on an ongoing attempt to estimate amphibian diversity on the three best studied mountains of the Eastern Arc, the East Usambara, Uluguru and Udzungwa mountains of Tanzania, complemented by an estimate of diversity on the adjoining coastal lowland. This proves to be a complex task, which introduces a note of caution into evaluating global biodiversity estimates. Most amphibian species in eastern Tanzania occur on the coastal lowlands and are widely distributed, extending at least north or south of Tanzania and, to a variable extent, westwards to the elevated interior. Diversity patterns along the length of the lowlands are complex, with the presence of a Sahelian element in the extreme north. On the three Eastern Arc mountains studied, species turnover associated with rising altitude is greater than turnover associated with latitudinal distance between the mountain blocks, leading to greater altitudinal than latitudinal diversity in this equatorial region. A long-standing divergence is indicated between montane and lowland endemics. Although forest-associated species are not the largest contributor to the eastern Tanzanian total species diversity (some 48%), the uniqueness of these species both in lowland and montane forests, combined with their evident vulnerability to disturbance, makes them a subject for particular conservation concern, and justifies hotspot status for both montane and lowland forests.


Amphibia East Africa Eastern Arc mountains Tanzania Diversity Altitudinal and latitudinal species turnover Hotspot 


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Material and data used in this study came in large part from Professor Kim Howell and his associates in the Department of Zoology, University of Dar es Salaam, and from many associates of The Society for Environmental Exploration (Frontier Tanzania) and the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group. We thank the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH research permit RCA 2110-272) and the Wildlife Division for granting permission to conduct research in Tanzania to SPL. Field work was funded by a grant from the Systematics Association and a NERC studentship (NER/S/A/2000/3366) to SPL. Part of this research was supported by the Natural History Research Fund and the Department of Zoology Research Fund of the Natural History Museum. An early version of this paper received a valuable airing at the 5th World Congress of Herpetology at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2005. Dr Arne Schiøtz is thanked for comments on species distribution.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. C. Poynton
    • 1
  • S. P. Loader
    • 1
  • E. Sherratt
    • 1
  • B. T. Clarke
    • 1
  1. 1.The Natural History MuseumLondonUK

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