Correlations among species distributions, human density and human infrastructure across the high biodiversity tropical mountains of Africa

This paper explores whether spatial variation in the biodiversity values of vertebrates and plants (species richness, range-size rarity and number or proportion of IUCN Red Listed threatened species) of three African tropical mountain ranges (Eastern Arc, Albertine Rift and Cameroon-Nigeria mountains within the Biafran Forests and Highlands) co-vary with proxy measures of threat (human population density and human infrastructure). We find that species richness, range-size rarity, and threatened species scores are all significantly higher in these three tropical African mountain ranges than across the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. When compared with the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, human population density is only significantly higher in the Albertine Rift mountains, whereas human infrastructure is only significantly higher in the Albertine Rift and the Cameroon-Nigeria mountains. Statistically there are strong positive correlations between human density and species richness, endemism and density or proportion of threatened species across the three tropical African mountain ranges, and all of sub-Saharan Africa. Kendall partial rank-order correlation shows that across the African tropical mountains human population density, but not human infrastructure, best correlates with biodiversity values. This is not the case across all of sub-Saharan Africa where human density and human infrastructure both correlate almost equally well with biodiversity values. The primary conservation challenge in the African tropical mountains is a fairly dense and poor rural population that is reliant on farming for their livelihood.