Uganda is one of the most biologically diverse countries in Africa, with much of its biodiversity represented in a system of 10 national parks, 10 wildlife reserves, and 710 forest reserves, covering 33,000 km(2) (14%) of the country's area. We focus on the role of the forest reserves in biodiversity conservation and describe a procedure we developed to design a national system of forest nature reserves. In the late 1980s a policy was instituted to dedicate half the area of forest reserves to sustainable timer production and the other half to environmental protection (with 20% as nature reserves). to select suitable sites, a 5-year, US$1-million program of biodiversity and resource assessment was undertaken, focusing on five biological indicator species groups and covering all the major forest reserves. Based on data generated by the field studies, we ranked each forest in terms of various criteria-(species richness, rarity, value for nonconsumptive uses, timber production, and importance to local communities)-and used an iterative site selection procedure to choose the most suitable combination of forests for nature reserve establishment. Our procedure maximized complementarity in representing species and habitats in reserves across the whole protected-area system. We initially selected sites using purely biological criteria but later modified our procedure to ensure that opportunity costs and potential land-use conflicts were minimized. Our preferred network of sites included 14 forests that, in combination with the existing national parks, would account for 96% of species represented in the country's protected areas. These 14 forests were classified as "prime" and "core" sites and were selected for the establishment of large nature reserves (averaging 100 km(2)). The addition of 25 smaller "secondary" forest nature reserves (averaging 32 km(2)) would protect more than 99% pf the indicator species.
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