In the vast arid plains and coastline of the Sperrgebiet region of Namibia and the lush forests of the Uluguru Mountains of Tanzania, nations took bold steps this year to protect ecosystems that are crucial to people and biodiversity.
The declaration of Sperrgebiet National Park in Namibia was a tremendous boon for the Succulent Karoo, one of just two desert biodiversity hotspots. The 2.6-million-hectare park remained virtually untouched for more than 100 years while under the control of mining companies who limited access. It is a refuge for nearly 25 percent of Namibia’s plant species.
“The declaration of this area as a national park was the catalyst needed to create and consolidate a series of protected areas that will span the entire Namibian coastline,” says Chris Brown, of the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF). Such large swaths of natural habitat buffer climate change, predicted to alter rainfall patterns and threaten the resiliency of the area’s plants.
CEPF supported NNF in development of management and tourism plans that include ecotourism concessions for nearby communities, allowing them to benefit from the growing influx of visitors.
Concerns about the impact of climate change also came into the fore in the declaration of the Uluguru Nature Reserve in Tanzania. Through the efforts of the U.N. Development Program and Global Environment Facility, and with support from CEPF, the Tanzanian government recognized the need to preserve these forests. Located west of Dar es Salaam, the new protected area links three forest reserves and a strip of previously farmed land to create a 24,000-hectare reserve.
Conserving these mountain forests protects the headwaters that feed the Ruvu River, the major water supply and source of hydroelectric power for millions of residents of Dar es Salaam and beyond. It also prevents the release of the carbon the forests store, averting furtherance of climate change.