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Chameleon - Photo: Nike Doggart
Bones - Photo: Andrew Perkin
Coastal Forests Top Image


Despite their importance - both in terms of biodiversity and use - the coastal forests are being degraded rapidly. The main threats to the coastal forests in the hotspot are (WWF-EARPO 2002):

    Kazimzumbwi Logs - Photo: Nike Doggart
  • Pressure on forest resources - charcoal burning, fuel wood collection, unsustainable logging and destructive mining practices
  • Expanding agriculture
  • Settlement
  • Urbanization
  • Lack of legal protection
  • Wildlife-human conflicts (elephants)

Poverty is a root cause behind many of these problems and with more than 20 million people dependent on the coastal forest natural resources, the pressures are high.

With human population growth at 2.5-3.5% annually, the demand for farmland to support subsistence agriculture is the greatest threat to the coastal forests with further deforestation occurring from commercial agriculture for coconut, sisal, clove, cardamon and cashew nut plantations. Uncontrolled burning to clear for farmland, to drive animals for hunting and to reduce Tsetste fly threatens the coastal forest and thicket patches, often replacing rare endemic coastal forest species with more common wide-ranging fire-adapted species.

Charcoal production

Charcoal - Photo: Nike DoggartThe huge amount of charcoal production from forest vegetation is causing major habitat loss near coastal towns and along side main roads in Tanzania. For instance, in the last decade coastal forests near to Dar es Salaam (Pande Game Reserve, Pugu, Kazimzumbwi and Ruvu South Forest Reserves) have lost significant areas of forest due to charcoal burning. Such areas remain a challenge to conservation particularly as they are being swallowed by expanding urbanisation from Dar es Salaam. Further away from towns and main roads fuel wood collection threatens the forests.


Logging - Photo: Andrew PerkinUnsustainable, illegal logging, using pit sawing techniques is an increasing problem, particularly in Southern Tanzania and Northern Mozambique. In Lindi and Mtwara Districts (Tanzania). Up to five times the official amount of timber was recorded passing Southern Tanzanian checkpoints in 2001 (Milledge and Kaale 2005). The opening of the Mkapa Bridge across the Rufiji river in 2003 allowed access to the forests south of the Rufiji River. Large scale roundwood logging and export (much illegal) received media attention in 2003, with a ban on export trade issued in January 2004. However due to the difficulty of enforcement, this ban was overturned in February 2004. The ban was re-instated in 2005. The government is currently trying to put in place adequate control systems before opening the area for logging once more.

Wood carving trade

There is a great demand for wooden carvings for tourists visiting coastal Tanzania, resulting in unsustainable harvesting of the timbers Dalbergia melanoxylon and Brachylaena huillensis. This has been seen around Arabuko-Sokoke and Watamu in Kenya. There is also high demand for Dalbergia melanoxylon to make woodwind instruments - particularly clarinets. Suitable timber is mainly available in Southern Tanzania.


The coastal forests have a wealth of mineral resources (gas, gemstones, iron, manganese, titanium, limestone and kaolin) that have been exploited using destructive mining practices. For example, limestone, rubies and other precious and semi-previous stones are mined from a few Tanzanian coastal forests, while iron and manganese have been extracted from the Kwale Kaya forests in Kenya. A Canadian-based multinational mining company, Tiomin Inc., has received permission to mine for titanium from coastal sands in Kenya.

Forest management

Only 17% of Coastal Forests have formal protective status. Within these protected areas, inadequate capacity, such as funds, resources and manpower, often underlie ineffective management and implementation of policies, as well as creating low morale in forestry staff. A lack of stakeholder involvement, conflicts of interest and corruption have also led to inadequate levels of protection on the ground, where factors such as proximity to urban areas, pressure for land, presence of valuable timber species and capacity of local forestry officers all effect the levels of protection. In a number of the coastal forests located close to Dar es Salaam the habitat is in danger of being entirely removed by charcoal burners, especially in Pugu and Kazimzumbwi forest reserves.

All text and images © TFCG 2006 unless otherwise credited.