Division of Early Warning and Assessment

Threats to Mt. Kilimanjaro forests

Threats to Mt. Kilimanjaro forests Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain is located in Tanzania some 300 kilometres south of the Equator. A forest belt covers a major part of the mountain which has a rich diversity of ecosystems, particularly of vegetation types that result mainly from a large range in altitude and rainfall. In addition, it comprises a very large number of plant species (around 2,500) and animal species. Mt. Kilimanjaro is also a critical water catchment for both Tanzania and Kenya. High rainfall and extensive forests give Mt. Kilimanjaro its high catchment value. About 96 per cent of the water flowing from Mt. Kilimanjaro originates from the forest belt.

But the forests of Mt. Kilimanjaro are heavily impacted by illegal activities including logging of indigenous trees in most areas below 2,500 metres on the western, southern and eastern slopes, fire occurrences on the south eastern slopes, and the establishment of forest villages in the western and northern slopes.

Southern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Logging activities affect the entire broadleaved mixed forests below an altitude of 2,500 metres. The moist Ocotea forests that cover most of the southern slopes are undergoing serious destruction caused by the intensive illegal logging of camphor trees. During the survey, over 2,100 recently-logged camphor trees were counted. On the lower slopes bordering the half-mile forest strip, there was no recent logging of camphor trees as these areas have already been depleted, but other indigenous tree species were being targeted; some 4,300 recently-logged indigenous trees were recorded. There was evidence of 57 landslides in the heavily impacted Ocotea forests.

The south western slopes are significantly impacted by forest fires; there were 37 areas of burnt forest on these slopes. To the east, above Marangu, 19 cleared fields have been opened up in the forest, and a large number of livestock was seen up to 8 kilometres deep into the forest.

There were fewer observations recorded in the half-mile forest strip because the zone is virtually denuded of indigenous trees. Some areas have been completely clearfelled.

Northern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro 

Logging activities also impact heavily on the east and west sides of the northern slopes; 574 recently-logged cedar trees were counted, as well as over 800 other indigenous trees.

Large tracks of indigenous forests on the north-western and northern slopes have been converted into forest plantation, using fast growing exotic tree species, such as pine (Pinus patula) and cypress (Cupressus lusitanica). On the north western slopes, the expansion of the forest plantations has reduced the indigenous forest belt to a width of less than one kilometre. The majority of the clear felled compartments within the forest plantations have not been replanted as required by the normal rotation management.

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