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Uganda - Country Profile

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Status and Trends of Biodiversity

Overview

Uganda is a land locked country that lies astride the equator between 4oN and 1oS and stretches from 29.5o – 35o W. It covers an area of 236,000 km2 out of which 194,000 km2 is dry land, 33,926 km2 open water and 7,674 km2 permanent wetlands. Uganda is a country of exceptional diversity because of its position in the zone of overlap between the East African savannah and the West African rain forests. It has seven out of the eighteen phytochoria in Africa and is one of the countries with high biological diversity on the African continent. There are varied habitats supporting a diversity of life. Uganda is thus ranked among the top ten countries in the world in terms of animal and plant diversity, and specifically, diversity of mammalian species. The major natural ecosystems are: forests, woodlands/savannas, wetlands, open water and mountain ecosystems.

Uganda has an assortment of protected areas including 10 National Parks, 10 Wildlife Reserves, 6 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 10 Community Wildlife Areas, 506 Central Forest Reserves (1,173,753 ha) and Local Forest Reserves (4,957 ha). In addition, two lakes - Lake George and Lake Nabugabo - have been gazetted Ramsar sites. The Government of Uganda has moved further and gazetted two national parks – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mt. Rwenzori Mountains National Park – world heritage sites while Queen Elizabeth National has been gazetted as a Man and the Biosphere Reserve and discussions are in advanced stages to gazette Mount Elgon as a Transboundary Biosphere Reserve.

Natural forests and woodlands together cover an area of nearly 50,000 km2 while wildlife protected areas cover approximately 11% of Uganda’s land surface. Open water resources cover up to 17% of the country's surface area comprising five major lakes: Victoria, Albert, Kyoga, Edward and George, about 160 minor lakes and an extensive river system. Wetland ecosystems constitute those areas with impended drainage, swamp forests, papyrus and grass swamps. Wetland ecosystem coverage is estimated at approximately 13 % (approximately 30,000 km2). Uganda has more than half of all African bird species and is second only to the Democratic Republic of Congo in terms of number of mammal species. In terms of species diversity, so far 18,783 species have been recorded. Key biodiversity hot spots for the country and the known genera and species are summarized in the tables below.

Key biodiversity hotspots in Uganda: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla berengei) and other regionally and globally important species); Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla berengei) and other regionally and globally important species); Rwenzori Mountain National Park (Bay duiker (Ceplahaphus leucogaster)); Sango Bay wetland and forest ecosystem (Biodiversity of global importance); Kibaale National Park (Regional and globally endemic species); Dry mountains of Karamoja- Napak, Kadam, Timu, Morungole, moroto (Regional and globally endemic species); Lake Victoria (Cichlid and Nile perch species (alien species invasion)); Papyrus Swamps of Lake Edward, George and Bunyonyi (Endemic papyrus (Chloropeta gracilirostis)); Mount Elgon National Park (Regional and globally endemic species).

Number of known genera and species in major taxonomic groups of Uganda’s biota (*Includes exotics; exact number of species of bacteria are not known, INA= Information Not Available): Group: Viruses; Genera: 58; Number of species: 88; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 4.4. Group: Bacteria; Genera: 137; Number of species: N/A; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: INA. Group: Algae; Genera: 49; Number of species: 115; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 0.5. Group: Fungi; Genera: 184; Number of species: 420; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 1.4. Group: Lichens; Genera: 51; Number of species: 296; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 1.6. Group: Mosses; Genera: 39; Number of species: 500; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 2.9. Group: Ferns; Genera: 102; Number of species: 386; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 3.9. Group: Gymnosperms*; Genera: 10; Number of species: 40; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 7.6. Group: Monocotyledons*; Genera: 323; Number of species: 1238; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 2.5. Group: Dicotyledons; Genera: 1258; Number of species: 4056; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 2.4. Group: Protozoa; Genera: 27; Number of species: 141; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 0.4. Group: Nematodes; Genera: 69; Number of species: 126; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 1.0. Group: Annelids; Group: 6; Number of species: 9; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 0.1. Group: Crustacea; Genera: 18; Number of species: 37; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: INA. Group: Acarines; Genera: 23; Number of species: 133; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: INA. Group: Insects; Genera: 3170; Number of species: 8999; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 1.2. Group: Molluscs; Genera: 23; Number of species: 81; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 0.2. Group: Fish; Genera: 64; Number of species: 350; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 2.0. Group: Amphibians; Genera: 19; Number of species: 67; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 1.6. Group: Reptiles; Genera: 75; Number of species: 256; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 4.1. Group: birds; Genera: 347; Number of species: 1007; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 11.7. Group: Mammals; Genera : 153; Number of species: 345; Percentage of world species represented in Uganda: 7.8.

In Uganda, there are 345 mammals, 142 reptiles, 86 amphibians and over 600 fish species. The bird species are particularly rich, with 1,007 species that include about 10% of all the bird species in the world. Insects and molluscs however make up the bulk of the world’s animals and many other taxa are also represented as well. There are 5,000 species of flowering plants and 406 gymnosperms and ferns recorded in Uganda. Of these, there are 54 woody plants that are considered to be under threat. These species are distributed in diverse ecosystem types, both natural and modified, such as forests, woodlands, soils, wetlands and aquatic systems, agro-ecological zones and urban environment. About 200 species of plants and animals are red-listed for Uganda, meaning that they are species of global importance for conservation efforts and deserve special attention. Uganda has about 30 endemic plants including those with limited distribution, such as some aloes found only on rocky outcrops. One endemic species of bird, the fox’s weaver, is found only around Lake Opeta and Lake Bisina. About 600 cichlid fish species are regionally endemic to Lake Victoria and other water bodies in the region. Uganda has about 70 species of endemic butterflies.

Uganda’s rich biodiversity is, however, facing increasing threats from unsustainable human activities. Some of the threats include: unsustainable resource harvesting; inadequate enforcement of legislation, regulations and compliance; improper fish resource exploitation; degradation of habitats through pollution and conversion; degradation and deforestation of forest areas; invasive alien species (both aquatic and terrestrial); anthropologic pressures and inadequate community involvement. Other issues include: lack of a national land use policy; lack of a national biodiversity conservation/management policy; conflicting interests over biodiversity among various institutions; inadequate awareness of biodiversity issues at all levels; inadequate monitoring of environmental trends; inadequate community participation in biodiversity conservation; and inadequate funding related to international conventions.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) was prepared in 2002 and is now in Cabinet for consideration and approval. It is a useful policy guide for addressing Uganda’s concerns in biodiversity conservation and the utilization of its components as well as for implementation of the requirements of the CBD. The goal of the NBSAP is to enhance biodiversity conservation, management, sustainable utilization and fair sharing of the benefits arising from such utilization at all levels. The strategic objectives of the NBSAP are to:

1. Develop and strengthen co-ordination, measures and frameworks for biodiversity management; 2. Facilitate research, information management and information exchange on biodiversity; 3. Reduce and manage negative impacts on biodiversity; 4. Promote the sustainable use and equitable sharing of costs and benefits of biodiversity; 5. Enhance awareness on biodiversity issues among the various stakeholders.

The NBSAP has put in place both general and sectoral strategies that are being implemented to achieve the objectives stated above. The sectoral strategies cover the following: wetlands, forests, wildlife, open water resources, soil biodiversity, biotechnology and biosafety, domestic animal diversity and plant genetic resources. The NBSAP has proposed the following strategies to address some of the key threats/issues affecting biodiversity conservation and management in Uganda:

a) Develop and strengthen co-ordination, measures and frameworks for biodiversity management. The Biodiversity Conservation Coordination Initiative (BCCI) has been developed and is being implemented. b) Facilitate research, information management and information exchange on biodiversity issues. This is ongoing within universities and research institutions. c) Reduce and manage the negative impacts of various activities on biodiversity. It is now mandatory for EIA to be carried out for proposed activities likely to have adverse impacts on biodiversity. d) Promote the sustainable use and fair sharing of costs and benefits of biodiversity. Regulations on ABS have been put in place and implementation is ongoing. Preparation of the ABS Guidelines is in advanced stages and expected to be completed by the end of May 2007 or early June 2007. e) Enhance awareness of biodiversity issues among the various stakeholders. Universities have training programmes that cover biodiversity issues. Primary school curriculum has been revised to include environment education. Plans are under way to incorporate environment education in secondary education as well. An Awareness Manual for Biodiversity Conservation in Uganda is under preparation and expected to be completed by the end of May or early June 2007.
 

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

There are several national and sectoral targets in place for the conservation of ecosystems and biomes, such as wetlands, forest, wildlife, agricultural biodiversity, and dry and sub-humid lands. The Forest Nature Conservation Master Plan, designating different forest types for different uses (Natures Reserves, Buffer Zones and Production Zones), National Wetlands Strategic Plan (2001-2010), National Forest Plan 2002, Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) – the main Government planning framework, Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA), among others, consider the need to protect biodiversity and proper natural resources management.

Management plans for all protected areas are in the process of being revised or prepared. Policies, laws and regulations regarding conservation have been revised and the respective institutions streamlined with a view to strengthening them. A number of efforts are in place at national and sectoral levels to promote the conservation of species diversity such as: the re-introduction of the White Rhino; primates conservation including the Mountain Gorilla around Bwindi National Park; and forest restoration in different parts of the country. In addition, the principle of sustainable harvesting is practiced and incorporated in management plans of all forest, wildlife and fisheries systems. Forest plantations as well as fish farming/aquaculture have been expanded. The legal framework has also been reviewed to enable wildlife ranching by private people.

The indicators used include trends in: the extent of ecosystems and habitats; the abundance and distribution of selected species; and ecosystem integrity in relation to pollution, encroachment and exploitation levels. Indicators for Monitoring Environment Quality and Trends (including biodiversity) have been prepared, and are a milestone towards obtaining information for the achievement of the 2010 target.

On enhancing transboundary management of wildlife, an MoU between the 3 Protected Area Authorities (Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), ORTPN & ICCN) was signed in Goma in January 2004, detailing collaboration objectives of the Transboundary Collaborative Management of the Central Albertine Rif (CAR). The Strategic Plan for the Transboundary Protected Areas and the entire CAR landscape was developed as a framework to guide this collaboration over the next ten years.

Other: Laws and policies have been put in place to promote biodiversity conservation which include the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, the National Environment Act, the Wildlife Act, the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act, the National Environment Policy, the National Wetlands Policy, the Forestry Policy, among others. Restoration activities have been undertaken in some of the degraded national parks, wildlife reserves, forest reserves and wetlands. Reintroduction of the previously extinct Northern White Rhino has been carried out.

A National Strategy for the Control and Management of Invasive Species is being developed (Article 8h).

Environment Impact Assessment Regulations have been put in place which provide for activities/projects likely to have adverse impacts on biodiversity (Article 14 of CBD) to undertake an EIA and then NEMA, in consultation with lead agencies. Projects are granted approval depending on the adequacy of the mitigation measures.

A draft Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy has been prepared and is awaiting Government approval. A Biosafety Bill is also being prepared.

Uganda carried out a National Capacity Needs Self Assessment (NSCA) for the implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) focusing on CBD, UNCCD, UNFCCC and Agreements on International Waters.

A draft Policy on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA) has been prepared (by MAIIF). PGRFA are the basis and foundation of our agricultural system and therefore the cornerstone of our economy and livelihoods. The Plant Genetic Resources Unit of National Agricultural Research Organization is carrying out, among others, the documentation of indigenous knowledge pertaining to Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA), as well as the promotion of traditional methods of conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

The Ugandan government has put in place protected area systems to enhance the conservation of biodiversity (Article 8 of CBD). These include forest reserves, national parks, wildlife reserves and Ramsar sites (Lake George and Lake Nabugabo). The Government of Uganda has moved further and gazetted two national parks – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mount Rwenzori Mountains National Park – world heritage sites while Queen Elizabeth National has been gazetted as a Man and Biosphere Reserve and discussion is in advanced stages to gazette Mount Elgon as a Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. The wildlife sector formulated a policy on community conservation, where communities involved in management contribute to the management of protected areas. A revenue-sharing programme and collaborative resources management are also in place to further strengthen community participation. Communities are also being empowered and sensitized on sustainable management of forests and other biological resources occurring on their land through a collaborative forest management arrangement.

Initiatives in Access and Benefit Sharing

The Regulations on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing have been prepared and approved by Government (Article15 of CBD). The Regulations are now being implemented through the Competent Authority – Uganda National Council for Science and Technology.

A Country Case Study on the Implementation of the Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing was undertaken and implementation of the recommendations is ongoing through, for example, the development of Guidelines for Accessing Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing in Uganda.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

Regarding indigenous knowledge related to traditional medicine, the Ministry of Health is working closely with traditional medical practitioners and traditional birth attendants to promote, conserve and protect traditional knowledge as it relates to biodiversity and traditional medicine.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme