Rift in the Mountain

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The aim is to understand their past behaviour, look for subtle signs of present-day activity and assess the threat posed to the infrastructure and people on and around them. RiftVolc will involve scientists from many disciplines working together to produce an integrated view of the past, present and future of the volcanoes in this region and compare it to other parts of East Africa and volcanoes elsewhere. Together we will spend several months out in Ethiopia, collecting samples, mapping the geology and deploying geophysical instruments, before returning to the lab to analyse the data and create computer models of the results.

Petrologists and geochemists will look at the lavas and ash to figure out the timing, size and style of past eruptions. Geophysicists will look for tiny earthquakes, changes in gravity, the passage of electrical currents and movements of the Earth's surface to understand the plumbing system feeding the volcanoes today.

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Finally, experts in hazard assessment will model possible scenarios and create a long-range eruption forecast for Ethiopia. We will work with our colleagues in the University of Addis Ababa and the Geological Survey of Ethiopia to ensure our findings are appropriately communicated to the government, industry and people of Ethiopia and with international groups such as the Global Volcano Model to communicate our results to development agencies such as the UN and the World Bank.

Skip to main content. Rift Volcanism: Past, Present and Future.

Albertine Rift

Exceptionally large numbers of endemic species occur in all taxonomic groups. Among vertebrates the amphibians with 32 strict endemics spread across 12 genera, and a further seven near endemics, have the highest number of range-restricted species. The bulk of these endemics consist of the highly variable Reed Frogs Hyperolius, 9 strict endemics , the Screeching frogs Phrynobatrachus, 7 strict endemics and the River Frogs Anthroleptis, 5 strict endemics and Clawed Toads Xenopus, 3 strict endemics.

Birds also possess exceptional levels of endemism with 30 strict endemics and another 16 near endemics, although no one genus dominates Bober et al.

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The endemic mammalian community contains 25 strictly endemic species and a further 11 species regarded as near-endemics WWF database. The endemic mammal fauna is dominated by small-mammals, with 10 of the species being shrews and 12 species being rodents. One of only two species of the family Tenrecidae on mainland Africa is also strictly endemic to these mountains, the Ruwenzori otter shrew Micropotamogale ruwenzorii, EN. The large number of endemic species, some occupying only a small portion of the ecoregion, also need consideration in any conservation plan for the area.

Although there are few endemic or near-endemic large mammals in the ecoregion, it does harbor the few remaining populations of the mountain gorilla Gorilla gorilla beringei , one of the most critically threatened large mammals in Africa. This species is the obvious flagship species in this ecoregion, and the research already conducted provides a firm foundation from which to develop conservation strategies Aveling and Aveling , , Aveling and Harcourt , Doran and McNeilage , Fossey , Fossey and Harcourt , Harcourt et al.

The primate fauna also includes the owl-faced monkey Cercopithecus hamlyni which has an endangered subspecies C. Some of the easternmost populations of chimpanzee Pan troglodytes, EN also occur in this ecoregion Aveling and Aveling , Aveling and Harcourt , Harcourt et al. The Albertine Rift endemic duiker Cephalophus rubidus may also venture into the upper parts of this ecoregion from the higher altitude heathland areas that are its more typical home.

In comparison to the other vertebrate groups the number of endemic reptiles is relatively low, with 11 strict endemics. These include four species of chameleons Chamaeleo spp. However, given the very high rates of endemism in other vertebrate groups the number of endemics may more reflect the relatively low rates of biological collecting, rather than the true numbers of reptile endemics. Despite its high biological importance, much of the forest of this area remains poorly studied.

Specific references on the biodiversity of the Albertine Rift are rare Bennun et al.

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For all taxonomic groups additional field studies as well as synthesis of existing collections and inventories need to be undertaken. It is expected that additional vertebrate, and especially invertebrate endemics are present in these mountain forests. Current Status Some of the highest population pressures in Africa are to be found within the Albertine Rift with many families living on small farms originally cleared from the forest.

Consequently, remaining blocks of habitat range from undisturbed to highly disturbed. The forests of the Lendu Plateau in the northern reaches of the Albertine Rift have almost completely disappeared. Further south some relatively intact forests can be found within the Rwenzori Mountain range. Further to the south, there are only isolated mountain blocks, such as Mtbuuri in southern Burundi, Mahale Mountains and Mtkungwenahke in western Tanzania, and Mount Kabobo and the Marungu mountains in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Outside protected areas these forests have been under severe human pressure and even within national parks they are not safe from serious disturbances.

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The ongoing conflicts in this region have made management extremely difficult. Especially the war in Congo and the genocide of Rwanda have caused major refugee problems, which has resulted in serious environmental problems. Within the five countries encompassing the boundaries of the Albertine rift, the level and degree of protection is variable.

In the case of Bwindi, WWF and other agencies support the Ugandan government in the management of the park. Forests further to the south, particularly those of the Itombwe Mountains in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are currently unprotected. To some extent, this lack of protection is offset by the fact that these forests are remote and the population density is reported to be relatively low.

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In Tanzania, the Mahale Mountains are protected as a National Park, mainly for the local populations of chimpanzee. Available information on the protected areas of this 70, km2 ecoregion are summarized below. It should be noted that part of Kahuzi-Biega National Park is also lowland, and that details of some of the sites mentioned above were not available. In both Rwanda and Burundi there are very high human population densities and in many areas the only stands of forest remaining are within Forest Reserves or National Parks, or those stands found in the most mountainous and therefore inaccessible areas.

In Uganda, a similar situation occurs, where forest habitat has been lost from the majority of areas that are not protected by National Parks or which do not have Forest Reserve status Howard , Hamilton However, in the more eastern and southern portions of the Itombwe Mountains in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the population density is lower, and far greater areas of forest exist, including complete transition zones between lowland and montane forest types. There remains a worry that some of these areas may be logged and this should form a focus of any future conservation initiatives within the ecoregion.

However, on each mountain block within the range the habitat has also been fragmented through the activities of man, specifically subsistence farming. Probably the least fragmented and most extensive area of habitat is found within the Itombwe Mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In other areas, the forests are typically confined within protected areas, with the land between these areas largely farmed and occupied by people. Types and Severity of Threats The farming activities of rural people are destroying and fragmenting habitats of this ecoregion in many areas, and this issue is the largest and most overriding concern for conservation in the area.

Coupled to high human population density and destruction of habitat, is hunting and poaching, which is causing major problems in several protected areas and is even more intense outside these areas. Fire wood collection is also a serious problem in several areas Aveling, Schoorl, pers comm. Populations of elephant Loxodonta africana , as well as many other large mammal species, have been decimated during the regions turbulent political past.

This is especially the case in the DRC Virunga national park. An update of the situation is urgently needed to be able to implement and design appropriate conservation strategies. These wars prevent the effective management of some protected areas in the ecoregion, thereby further increasing problems of encroachment and illegal activities, such as the killing of mountain gorillas. In the more remote parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the threats are less severe, but even here there has been considerable intensification of the threats due to mass movement of refugees in recent years.

In Rwanda the situation is only slightly better, due to the continued tensions in this country. All large mammals need particular attention, by improving anti-poaching efforts and re-establishing control in the gazetted areas. The boundary just north of the Ruwenzori-Virunga Montane Moorland areas was also delineated using the m contour, again, to better reflect the Endemic Bird Area. References Aveling, R. Bober, S. In press. Geographical and altitudinal distribution of endemic birds in the Albertine Rift. Bennun, L. Aman, and S.

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Crafter, editors. Conservation of biodiversity in Africa: local initiatives and institutional roles. Center for Biodiversity, National Museums of Kenya. Doran, D.

Albertine Rift montane forests

Gorilla ecology and behavior. Evolutionary Anthroplogy 6: Dowsett, R. Origins of the high-altitude avifaunas of tropical Africa. Pages in F. Vuilleumier and M. Monasteuio, editors. High altitude tropical biogeography.

Oxford University Press, New York. Fossey, D. Harcourt Feeding ecology of free-ranging mountain gorilla Gorilla g. Tres Cruces Volcanic Center. Ring tuff.

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