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Uganda - Main Details

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Uganda is a landlocked country located where seven of Africa’s biogeographic regions converge, making it a country with a high level of biodiversity. Despite its small size, Uganda has an extraordinary amount of diversity in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. The Nile River passes through it, punctuated by various falls, like the Bujagali Falls, Karuma Falls and Murchison Falls. The ecosystems range from the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains, the Virunga Volcanoes, and Mount Elgon, to the high altitude montane forests, the open waters of Lake Victoria, Lake Mburo, Lake Bunyonyi, Lake Kwania, Lake Wamala, Lake Mutanda, Lake Nabugabo, Lake Katunga, Lake Nyabihoko, Lake Nakivale, Lake Marebe, Lake Kijanibarora, Lake Nkugute, Lake George, Lake Edward, Lake Kyoga, Lake Albert, Lake Opeta and Lake Bisina. The major rivers in the country are: River Nile, River Aswa, River Katonga, River Nkusi, River Kafu, River Rwizi, River Kagera, River Mpanga, River Manafwa, River Mpologoma, River Semliki, River Mubuku, River Mayanja, River Sezibwa, River Malaba, River Sipi, River Namatala, River Sironko, River Muzizi and River Nabuyonga. The islands include the islands of Lake Victoria and Bunyonyi. Within the country, farmland is the most extensive, followed by grasslands, woodlands, water bodies, bush lands, and tropical high forests.

With a recorded 18,783 species of fauna and flora, Uganda ranks among the top ten most biodiverse countries globally. It is host to 53.9% (400 individuals) of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas, 11% (1057 species) of the world’s recorded species of birds (50% of Africa’s bird species richness), 7.8% (345 species) of the Global Mammal Diversity (39% of Africa’s Mammal Richness), 19% (86 species) of Africa’s amphibian species richness and 14% (142 species) of Africa’s reptile species richness, 1,249 recorded species of butterflies and 600 species of fish. In addition, Uganda harbours seven of Africa’s 18 plant kingdoms (more than any other African country) and its biological diversity is one of the highest on the continent.

In general, the population of large mammals is stable. Population size is even increasing for some taxa (e.g. common eland) while decreasing for others (e.g. buffalo). Of the country’s bird species, 15 are endangered and 11 are vulnerable; several species are classified as threatened at the global (e.g. Shoebill B. rex, Grey-crowned Crane B. regulorum) and regional (e.g. White-backed Night Heron G. leuconotos, Rufous-bellied Heron A. rufiventris) levels.

The annual contribution of ecosystem services is estimated to have decreased from US$ 5,097 million in 2005 to US$ 4,405 million in 2010, due mainly to deforestation. Forest cover has been reduced from 50% (12.1 million ha) of the total land surface in 1900 to an estimated 2.97 million ha in 2012. Wetland cover has also been reduced from 15.6% in 1994 to 10.9% at present. Over the 20 years, fish and fish products have emerged as the second largest group to coffee (Uganda’s most important cash crop) in agricultural exports. The fisheries sector is however facing challenges with the overall export to international markets having recently declined sharply (from 39,201 tons in 2005 to about 15,417 tons in 2010) due mainly to declining catches, falling stocks, overfishing and expanses of regional markets. The potential negative impacts of climate change on coffee production are being given more serious consideration. Eco-tourism is now projected to become the mainstay of the economy, contributing the highest among sectors in terms of foreign exchange earnings, tax and non-tax revenue, employment and to the GDP as a whole.

Oil and gas have been discovered in the Albertine Graben region, a biodiversity hotspot, with production projected to begin in 2018.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

Threats to biodiversity are identified as encroachment (prevalent in all types of protected areas); human-wildlife conflicts; illegal grazing in national parks; poaching and illicit trade in wildlife; use of destructive fishing gears and technologies; deforestation; urbanization and industrialization; introduction of alien species; encroachment of wetlands; drainage of wetlands; replacement of local crop varieties by introduced commercial varities; loss of other indigenous species found in cultivated areas; poverty; introduction of new breeds; systematic breed substitution and irrational genetic transformation.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme