Five internationally recognized 'biodiversity hot spots'
(areas of particularly high species richness and endemism, and under particular
threat) are found in the African region (Mittermeier and others 2000).
These are the Western Indian Ocean islands, the Cape floristic region,
the Succulent Karoo (the most species-rich desert in the world), the Upper
Guinea forest and the Eastern Arc mountain forests of Eastern Africa.
Part of the Mediterranean Basin hot spot, home to 25 000
plant species and 14 endemic genera, is also found in Africa (Quézel and
others 1999). The continent possesses several other areas of great importance
for biodiversity. These include the highlands of Ethiopia; the forests
of the Albertine Rift in Burundi, eastern Congo, Rwanda, and adjacent
parts of Kenya and Uganda; the western escarpment of Angola; and the miombo
woodlands of interior Southern Africa (Mittermeier and others 2000).
In the past three decades, habitat loss and degradation
has been a major issue throughout Africa, particularly in dryland areas.
In humid areas, the bushmeat trade has also had a significant impact on
biodiversity. Biodiversity resources are extensively used for subsistence
and commercial purposes. For example, approximately 70 per cent of the
wild plant species in Northern Africa are used as sources of traditional
food, forage, medicine and agroforestry, and half have more than one use
(Ucko and Dimbleby 1969, UNESCO and UCO 1998, WWF and IUCN 1994). The
richness and diversity of ecosystems in Africa underpins a flourishing
tourism industry, which is an important source of foreign exchange for
many countries. For instance, Southern Africa's wildlife attracted more
than 9 million visitors in 1997 bringing in a total of US$4.1 billion