Stemming the decline of global biodiversity is the greatest challenge facing conservation biologists in this century. Now a seminal book by Earthwatch-supported scientist Dr. William Newmark (Utah Museum of Natural History) brings international attention to the unique and endangered biodiversity of moist montane forests in Tanzania and Kenya.
Newmark’s book, Conserving Biodiversity in East African Forests: A study of the Eastern Arc Mountains, explores current threats to biodiversity in one of the richest tropical ecosystems in the world. Although the book focuses on conserving biodiversity in Eastern Arc forests, the problems and approaches discussed are relevant to tropical forests around the world.
"This is the first book to examine in detail the conservation of biodiversity in any of the 17 most threatened tropical biodiversity hotspots," said Newmark, principal investigator of Earthwatch’s Tanzanian Forest Birds project. "The Eastern Arc forests have the highest ratio of endemic plant and animal species to area of any biodiversity hotspot worldwide."
The Eastern Arc Mountains are a series of isolated and geologically ancient mountains, stretching from the Udzungwa range in eastern Tanzania to the Taita Hills in Kenya. Due to their height, ranging up to 2,800 meters, and proximity to the Indian Ocean and its atmospheric moisture, the mountains support moist tropical forests with prodigious biodiversity. Habitat changes in these forests threaten dozens of endemic plants and animals found there, from the critically endangered Uluguru musk shrew to the Usambara eagle owl.
Conserving Biodiversity in East African Forests explores the biological significance of the Eastern Arc Mountains, and investigates current threats to biodiversity there. But the book goes beyond these observations to identify the local ecological information and activities that are critical to conserving biodiversity in these forests. From looking at keystone species and the distribution of biodiversity to establishing wildlife corridors and monitoring populations, Newmark gives valuable insight to tropical ecologists working to stem the tide of biodiversity loss.
Some of the findings presented in the book relied on data from Earthwatch teams exploring the effect of forest fragmentation on birds in the rugged Usambara Mountains. Newmark also trained several teams of Earthwatch African Fellows, conservation workers from countries across Africa, an important boon to their capacity-building and networking between agencies.
"The Earthwatch teams have been of critical importance over the last six years in gathering data for the Tanzanian Forest Birds project," said Newmark, who is embarking on an ambitious new Earthwatch-supported project closer to home. Although Wildlife Trails of the American West is also dealing with habitat fragmentation, volunteers will be investigating habitat use by large mammals of Utah’s rugged backcountry.
Conserving Biodiversity in East African Forest is an important contribution to tropical ecology and the conservation of biodiversity in tropical forests. Conservation workers in tropical environments and students of conservation ecology will be challenged to a high standard of investigation and action by Newmark’s example.
Conserving Biodiversity in East African Forests: A study of the Eastern Arc Mountains. By W.D. Newmark.