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The Udzungwa Mountains form a massif that occupies an area of about 10,000 sq. km and represents the southernmost “island” of an “archipelago” of mountain blocks – the Eastern Arc Mountains – that run from southern Kenya through eastern and south-central Tanzania. The mountains are up to 30 million years old, partially covered in rainforest and contain outstanding levels of biological diversity and endemic species. The entire area is part of the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot.
Within the Eastern Arc Mountains, the Udzungwa Mountains stand out for their large forest blocks, broad altitudinal gradient of continuous forest cover, and outstanding biodiversity. Since 1992, about one fifth of the Udzungwa Mountains have been protected by the 1,990 sq. km. Udzungwa Mountain National Park (UMNP). A similar amount of area is protected either as forest or nature reserve.
Established in 2008, the Udzungwa TEAM site is the first TEAM network site in Africa. It is administered through the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre, a field station established in 2006 by Italy’s Trento Museum of Natural Sciences in collaboration with Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA). The field station and the TEAM site are both managed by the Trento Museum in partnership with TANAPA.
The Udzungwa TEAM site is located in the Mwanihana forest, situated on the slope of the east-facing Udzungwa escarpment, which has continuous forest from 300 meters to 2,100 meters above sea level. It is one of the largest and biologically most important forest blocks within the whole Udzungwa range. Mean annual rainfall is approximately 2,000 mm.
The Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre stands immediately outside the forest edge, near the park headquarters at the foothill of the forest. The monitoring center includes three houses to accommodate investigators who are based at the center to conduct research. (See links online for lists of research projects and citations of research reports.) Center facilities include a large office, seminar room and storage facility. A hostel to accommodate 24 people and a restaurant are also in the works.
The Udzungwa Mountains are extremely heterogeneous and contain several different habitat types, with closed-canopy forests interspersed with areas of dry woodland, wooded grassland and grassland. In the largest forest blocks, such as Mwanihana, the following forest zones are recognized, broadly distinguished by altitude:
The area protected as a national park still holds large portions of dry and wildlife-rich habitat in the matrix habitat that lies between forest blocks. In the remaining area, however, the habitat outside the forest reserves has been heavily modified by humans for farming and settlements. Moreover, the Kilombero floodplain, which runs on the eastern side of mountain range at 300 meters, has been largely converted to intensive agriculture, primarily for cultivation of sugar cane and rice.
The Udzungwa Mountains hold 13 species of primates and it is one of the most important sites in Africa for primate diversity and conservation. The diurnal primates in Mwanihana Forest include two monkeys that are strictly endemic to the area:
The area also includes the more widely distributed Angolan black-and-white colobus (Colobus angolensis) and the Sykes’ monkey (Cercopithecus mitis), in addition to the yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus). There are also 2 moist forest galagos, including the Mountain galago (Galagoides orinus, which is endemic to the Eastern Arc.
The recently described new genus and species of monkey, the kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji), only occurs in the Udzungwa Mountains in the northwestern Ndundulu forest, and not in the TEAM site.
The vitality of the primate community in the Udzungwa Mountains reflects the range’s importance to mammals overall. In 2007, Francesco Rovero of the Trento Museum of Natural Sciences and Daniela De Luca of the Wildlife Conservation Society compiled a checklist of 120 mammal species for the Udzungwa range. With 6 strictly-endemic mammals, and 18 species that are endemic to the Eastern Arc, the Udzungwa Mountains as a whole hold the highest number of restricted-range or endemic species.
At the TEAM site in the Mwanihana forest, mammals of conservation importance include:
Other species include:
Trevor Jones of Anglia Ruskin University has compiled a checklist of 160 bird species for the Mwanihana forest. It includes several threatened and restricted range taxa, among which is the Udzungwa-endemic and rufous-winged sunbird (Nectarinia rufipennis) – designated “vulnerable” by IUCN.
There are detailed data on amphibian and reptile species for the TEAM site. However, Michele Menegon of the Trento Museum of Natural Sciences recorded a total of 36 species of amphibians and 33 species of reptiles in Uzungwa Scarp, a forest block located in the southern Udzungwa that is relatively similar in area and vegetation gradient to the Mwanihana forest.
Steve Collins of the African Butterfly Research Institute has recorded 539 species of butterflies in the Udzungwa Mountains, which is by far the highest number of species for any mountain range in the Eastern Arc.
The Udzungwa Mountains contain 36 species of Eastern Arc-endemic and near-endemic trees, which is also among the highest scores. Roy Gereau of the Missouri Botanical Garden listed 84 globally threatened plants for the Udzungwa Mountains.
The Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre is near Mang'ula village, 60 km south of Mikumi along the Mikumi-Ifakara Road (click here for map).
From Dar es Salaam (where the nearest international airport is), the distance is 380 km following the road to Iringa-Mbeya through Morogoro and then turning south at Mikumi town. It is 180 km from Morogoro. Other than by car, the TEAM site can be reached by bus to Ifakara (from Dar es Salaam or Morogoro) and by train from Dar es Salaam (TAZARA line).