East African coastal forest under pressure


The Arabuko Sokoke dryland coastal forest along the East African coastline provides a unique habitat for many endangered endemic animal and plant species. High demographic pressure with subsequent land-splitting, soil depletion in combination with erratic rainfalls and the collapse of the tourism industry are negatively affecting food security and human livelihood quality in this region. Food crops were originally produced by subsistence farming, but have now to be purchased at local- and super-markets, constituting a major financial burden for the local people. In consequence, overexploitation of natural resources from Arabuko Sokoke forest (illegal logging, charcoal burning, poaching of wild animals) increased during the past years. In this commentary we document ecosystem heterogeneity leading to high species richness. We discuss direct and indirect drivers of habitat degradation of the Arabuko Sokoke forest, and critically reflect current and future solutions. Key drivers of habitat destruction and biodiversity loss are (i) illegal timber logging and removal of woody biomass, (ii) poaching of bush-meat, (iii) exceeding of the carrying capacity by the local elephant population, restricted to Arabuko Sokoke by an electric fence, and (iv) weak governance structures and institutional confusion exacerbating illegal exploitation of natural resources. Potential solutions might be: Provisioning of additional income sources; reforestation of the surrounding areas in the framework of REDD+ activities to create a buffer around the remaining primary forest; improving governance structures that formulates clear guidelines on future usage and protection of natural resources within the Arabuko Sokoke forest; and family planning to counteract human demographic pressure and the exploitation of natural resources.

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Correspondence to Jan Christian Habel.

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This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Forest and plantation biodiversity.

Communicated by Peter Ashton.

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Habel, J.C., Casanova, I.C.C., Zamora, C. et al. East African coastal forest under pressure. Biodivers Conserv 26, 2751–2758 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-017-1375-z

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  • Biodiversity hotspot
  • Disturbances
  • Endemism
  • Exploitation
  • Poverty
  • Natural resources
  • Governance structures