Semuliki National Park

UGATIPA5
Semuliki National Park

Country: Uganda

Administrative region: Western (Region)

Central co-ordinates: 0.82151 N, 30.05359 E

Area: 220km²

Qualifying IPA Criteria

A(i)Site contains one or more globally threatened species

IPA assessment rationale

Semuliki National Park qualifies as an IPA under sub-criterion A(i), with three globally Endangered species and four Vulnerable species meeting IPA thresholds.

##Habitat will likely qualify under C(iii)###

Site description

Semuliki National Park, formerly Bwamba forest, is within Bundibugyo District of Western Uganda. Covering an area of 220 km2 (UNEP-WCMC 2023), the site falls within the Albertine Rift region and is the lowest altitude forest in Uganda. Bordered in the west by the Semuliki River, this IPA forms a section of the border between D.R. Congo and Uganda, while in the east the site is bordered by the Fort Portal-Bundibungyo Road. Overlooking Semuliki National Park in the south-east is the northern spur of the Ruwenzori Mountains.
This site was visited in February 2023 as part of the Uganda TIPAs project and some of the information below is based on observations made during this fieldwork.

Botanical significance

Semuliki National Park is of national importance as the only extensive area of lowland forest in Uganda, with altitudes as low as 652 m.
Seven threatened species are known from this IPA including three Endangered species: Chlorophytum hirsutum, an Albertine Rift endemic, Oxyanthus ugandensis, which is known from only three localities globally including Semuliki NP, and Justicia francoiseana, which is highly disjunct known also from a small number of localities in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The latter species was collected for the first time within Semuliki during fieldwork in 2023 and only a small number of individuals were seen.
Five Vulnerable species have also been recorded at this site. One of these, Cnestis mildbraedii, is of particular note as the IUCN Red List assessment states that this species is “only effectively protected at Semuliki National Park” (Amani et al. 2022), while for another, Leptonychia semlikiensis, Semuliki NP encompasses the entire national population of this species (Rotton et al. 2023?). This species was found to be locally abundant in the Sempaya area of the national park in fieldwork by the Uganda TIPAs project in 2023. Although not threatened with extinction, Semuliki NP is similarly important for Euphorbia bwambensis as the entire national population is restricted to this site. Only one other locality, Okapi Wildlife Reserve in D.R. Congo, is known globally for this species (Luke et al. 2019).
One of the five Vulnerable species, Afzelia bipindensis, is a timber species with a widespread distributions but is threatened by overexploitation (African Regional Workshop 1998; World Conservation Monitoring Centre 2017). Due to these widespread distributions neither species would trigger an IPA under the threatened species criterion, A(i), but the presence of these useful species at this site is still of note.
Botanical survey of this extensive site is far from exhaustive, 2023 Uganda TIPAs fieldwork for instance found two species which had not previously been recorded from Uganda, Bertiera aethiopica and Campylospermum lunzuense. Further fieldwork may well find further new records, including range-restricted and threatened plant species.

Habitat and geology

Much of the site is dominated by Cynometra alexandri forest, with other trees of Elaeis guineensis and Ficus spp. commonly co-occurring in areas of mixed forest. The shrub layer is variable with species of Celtis, Alchornea, Capparis and Vepris frequent. In wetter areas, trees of Macaranga and Cola are more frequent, and in waterlogged swamp forest Elaeis and Tabernaemontana dominate with frequent Pandanus and Mitragyna. Open areas of waterlogged marsh are dominated by sedges of Elaeocharis while shrubs of Pluchea are common.
Within the marshes near Sempaya are hot springs in sedimentary rock associated with the Rift Valley bounding faults at the foot of the Ruwenzori Mountains, with maximum temperatures close to 95°C (Schumann et al. 2015). Much of the landscape is flat with some gentle undulations in places. The substrate consists largely of poorly drained alluvial clay soils of low fertility.

Conservation issues

The site was first designated as a Central Forest Reserve in 1932 and upgraded to a National Park in 1993, coming under the management of the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (Howard, 1991; UNEP-WCMC & IUCN, 2022). The site is largely secure and well-staffed with UWA rangers. However, some threats to the site remain. While collection of deadwood for fires and limited felling of exotic tree species is permitted within the reserve, with access regulated by UWA, we observed also evidence of small-scale, mechanized felling of native tree species.
Coffee and cacao were previously planted by local communities within the reserve before it was raised to National Park status. While this practice has since been ended, with these species instead grown on neighbouring community land, Theobroma cacao is propagated by monkey species at the site and is frequent in some areas of the National Park. Other invasive species at this site include Cedrela odorata, Senna siamea and Toona cilliata (CUPTD workshop, pers. comm 2023).
Excessive flooding in parts of the national park has led to tree die-back around the Kirimia River and, anecdotally, it has been suggested that weather extremes caused by climate change may be responsible.

Ecosystem services

The site hosts eco-tourism - the bird and butterfly diversity is a particular draw for enthusiasts, while charismatic mammals such as monkey species, are also known from this site (UWA 2023). The hot springs in the southeast of Semuliki are also a significant tourist attraction.
Semuliki NP has cultural importance to the Bamaga clan, with communities believing that female and male ancestors reside within the Female and Male Hot Springs respectively. The springs are, as a result, used for ceremonies where local people might ask their ancestors for assistance, for example, good health, fertility or financial prosperity.
Local communities are permitted by UWA to collect firewood and herbs, for medicinal purposes, a few times a month. The oil palm, Elaeis guineensis, is frequent within the forests, although local communities tend to obtain palm nuts from trees outside the national park.

Site assessor(s)

Sophie Richards, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Iain Darbyshire, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

IPA criterion A species

Species Qualifying sub-criterion ≥ 1% of global population ≥ 5% of national population 1 of 5 best sites nationally Entire global population Socio-economically important Abundance at site
Chlorophytum hirsutum A.D.Poulsen & Nordal A(i) True True True False False Unknown
Cnestis mildbraedii Gilg A(i) True True True False False Unknown
Afzelia bipindensis Harms A(i) False True True False True Unknown
Leptonychia semlikiensis Engl. A(i) False True True False False Unknown
Oxyanthus ugandensis Bridson A(i) True True True False False Unknown
Gambeya muerense (Engl.) Liben A(i) True False True False False Unknown
Rinorea beniensis Engl. A(i) True False True False False Unknown
Justicia franceoiseana Brummitt A(i) True True True False False Scarce

Chlorophytum hirsutum A.D.Poulsen & Nordal

Qualifying sub-criterion:
A(i)
≥ 1% of global population:
True
≥ 5% of national population:
True
1 of 5 best sites nationally:
True
Entire global population:
False
Socio-economically important:
False
Abundance at site:
Unknown

Cnestis mildbraedii Gilg

Qualifying sub-criterion:
A(i)
≥ 1% of global population:
True
≥ 5% of national population:
True
1 of 5 best sites nationally:
True
Entire global population:
False
Socio-economically important:
False
Abundance at site:
Unknown

Afzelia bipindensis Harms

Qualifying sub-criterion:
A(i)
≥ 1% of global population:
False
≥ 5% of national population:
True
1 of 5 best sites nationally:
True
Entire global population:
False
Socio-economically important:
True
Abundance at site:
Unknown

Leptonychia semlikiensis Engl.

Qualifying sub-criterion:
A(i)
≥ 1% of global population:
False
≥ 5% of national population:
True
1 of 5 best sites nationally:
True
Entire global population:
False
Socio-economically important:
False
Abundance at site:
Unknown

Oxyanthus ugandensis Bridson

Qualifying sub-criterion:
A(i)
≥ 1% of global population:
True
≥ 5% of national population:
True
1 of 5 best sites nationally:
True
Entire global population:
False
Socio-economically important:
False
Abundance at site:
Unknown

Gambeya muerense (Engl.) Liben

Qualifying sub-criterion:
A(i)
≥ 1% of global population:
True
≥ 5% of national population:
False
1 of 5 best sites nationally:
True
Entire global population:
False
Socio-economically important:
False
Abundance at site:
Unknown

Rinorea beniensis Engl.

Qualifying sub-criterion:
A(i)
≥ 1% of global population:
True
≥ 5% of national population:
False
1 of 5 best sites nationally:
True
Entire global population:
False
Socio-economically important:
False
Abundance at site:
Unknown

Justicia franceoiseana Brummitt

Qualifying sub-criterion:
A(i)
≥ 1% of global population:
True
≥ 5% of national population:
True
1 of 5 best sites nationally:
True
Entire global population:
False
Socio-economically important:
False
Abundance at site:
Scarce

General site habitats

General site habitat Percent coverage Importance
Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland Forest No value Major
Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Swamp Forest No value Major
Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands [generally over 8 ha] No value Minor

Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland Forest

Percent coverage:
No value
Importance:
Major

Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Swamp Forest

Percent coverage:
No value
Importance:
Major

Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands [generally over 8 ha]

Percent coverage:
No value
Importance:
Minor

Land use types

Land use type Percent coverage Importance
Nature conservation No value Major
Tourism / Recreation No value Major
Harvesting of wild resources No value Minor

Nature conservation

Percent coverage:
No value
Importance:
Major

Tourism / Recreation

Percent coverage:
No value
Importance:
Major

Harvesting of wild resources

Percent coverage:
No value
Importance:
Minor

Threats

Threat Severity Timing
Biological resource use - Logging & wood harvesting Medium Ongoing - trend unknown
Climate change & severe weather - Storms & flooding Unknown Ongoing - trend unknown
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases - Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases Medium Ongoing - trend unknown

Biological resource use - Logging & wood harvesting

Severity:
Medium
Timing:
Ongoing - trend unknown

Climate change & severe weather - Storms & flooding

Severity:
Unknown
Timing:
Ongoing - trend unknown

Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases - Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases

Severity:
Medium
Timing:
Ongoing - trend unknown

Protected areas

Protected area name Protected area type Relationship with IPA Areal overlap
Semuliki National Park National Park protected/conservation area matches IPA No value

Semuliki National Park

Protected area type:
National Park
Relationship with IPA:
protected/conservation area matches IPA
Areal overlap:
No value

Conservation designation

Designation name Protected area Relationship with IPA Areal overlap
Semliki National Park Key Biodiversity Area protected/conservation area matches IPA No value
Semliki National Park Important Bird Area protected/conservation area matches IPA No value

Semliki National Park

Protected area:
Key Biodiversity Area
Relationship with IPA:
protected/conservation area matches IPA
Areal overlap:
No value

Semliki National Park

Protected area:
Important Bird Area
Relationship with IPA:
protected/conservation area matches IPA
Areal overlap:
No value

Management type

Management type Description Year started Year finished
Protected Area management plan in place No value No value

Protected Area management plan in place

Year started:
No value
Year finished:
No value

Bibliography

Howard, P. C., 1991

Nature Conservation in Uganda’s Tropical Forest Reserves

Amani, C., Kalema, J., Nshutiyayesu, S. & Ntore, S., 2022

Cnestis mildbraedii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2022: e.T154236655A154387921.

Available online

African Regional Workshop (Conservation & Sustainable Management of Trees, Zimbabwe, July 1996)., 1998

Afzelia bipindensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1998: e.T33033A9751784

Available online

Schumann, A., Muwanga, A., Lehto, T., Staudt, M., Schlüter, T., Kato, V. & Namboyera, A., 2015

Ugandan Geosites

Geoogy Today Available online

Luke, W.R.Q., Beentje, H.J., Fischer, E., Kabuye, C., Kalema, J., Kayombo, C., Nshutiyayesu, S. & Ntore, S., 2019

Euphorbia bwambensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T34423A103581899

Available online

Rotton, H., Kalema, J., Ojelel, S. & Richards, S.L., In press.

Leptonychia semilikiensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

IUCN & UNEP-WCMC, 2023

The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) 2023

Available online

UWA, 2023

Semuliki

Available online

Recommended citation

Sophie Richards, Iain Darbyshire (2024) Tropical Important Plant Areas Explorer: Semuliki National Park (Uganda). https://tipas.kew.org/site/semuliki-national-park/ (Accessed on 21/05/2024)