The central Africa region supports a significant proportion of the world’s species dependent upon freshwater wetland habitats. For these analyses we have included additional information on freshwater dependent mammals (as defined by the IUCN Red List), freshwater turtles, amphibians, and water birds, for which regional data sets also exist. Given that the region represents approximately 4% of total global land mass (excluding Antarctica), it is apparent that the majority of groups, mammals, water birds and plants in particular, are well represented within the region.
Number of described species
Number of species in central Africa
% of global total found in central Africa
Data sources: Balian et al. (2008); IUCN Red List (2010)
Of the 2,261 species assessed here at the regional scale, almost 15% are regionally threatened. When compared with the global level of threat to some of those taxonomic groups that have been comprehensively assessed (e.g. mammals, 21% threatened; amphibians, 30% threatened), this figure appears to be relatively low. The history of conflict in the region, and limited infrastructure, has restricted the level of scientific research. However the exact level of threat for all species is unknown as there is insufficient information to assess the status of 472 DD species, and it could be as high as 36% assuming all Data Deficient species are threatened. It is expected that development activities will increase extensively in the next few years, including the usage of central Africa’s water resources, and the situation could change dramatically unless impacts to freshwater species are considered during the planning phases for future projects.
IUCN Red List Categories: EX - Extinct, RE - Regionally Extinct, EW - Extinct in the Wild, CR - Critically Endangered, EN - Endangered, VU - Vulnerable, NT - Near Threatened, LC - Least Concern, DD - Data Deficient
A comparison can be made with other comprehensive regional freshwater biodiversity assessments. The central Africa region exhibits a much higher species richness than other regions of Africa. The relative levels of human development largely explain differences in the proportion of threatened species between southern, western and northern Africa, with the higher level of threat in eastern Africa blamed to some degree on the introduction of invasive species. Central Africa however has a low level of development throughout the region, and therefore would be expected to reflect a smaller proportion of threatened species. Central Africa, like eastern Africa, shows very high levels of endemism. With many freshwater species restricted to water catchments with little option for dispersal, they face a higher risk of extinction compared to more widespread species.
||Southern Africa||Western Africa|
|Number of threatened taxa assessed||2,261||1,594||877||1,279||1,395|
|% Data Deficient||21%||16%||14%||15%||16%|
*Aquatic plants were not included in the eastern Africa assessment.
Central Africa also shows a much higher proportion of Data Deficient species than is seen in other regions of Africa. The history of conflict in the region has limited the level of scientific research and survey work as compared with that carried out in other parts of the continent, leaving information gaps for species’ ranges, habitats, and potential threats. Data Deficient species are potentially threatened, and given the proportionally high level of threat seen for those species which could be assessed within central Africa, it is a priority to assess the status of these other potentially at risk species.
All the central Africa assessments of species that are endemic to the region are equivalent to global assessments and so also represent the risk of global extinction for the species. Of the 1,179 regionally endemic species assessed here, 263 species (22% of those assessed) are globally threatened.
IUCN Red List Categories: EX - Extinct, EW - Extinct in the Wild, CR - Critically Endangered, EN - Endangered, VU - Vulnerable, NT - Near Threatened, LC - Least Concern, DD - Data Deficient