Ferns in the sky islands of east Africa

This study explores pteridophyte diversity of the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot

Data resources used via GBIF : 4,313 species occurrences
Pellaea calomelanos

Pellaea calomelanos observed by John Barkla in Tanzania. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Part of the East African Rift Valley, the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot (EABH) is a hyper-diverse region with a complex history of processes shaping species richness. The mountains of the EABH are different from other tropical mountain formations, as they do not form a continuous chain, and are often described as “sky islands”.

In this study, researchers explore the origins of fern and lycophyte diversity of the sky islands of east Africa. Using a combination of traditional floras, journal articles and online resources including GBIF they identify 485 taxa in the region, a number that is only surpassed by Madagascar. The authors note that GBIF data alone reliably describes the species richness for some countries, but not all.

The study finds evidence for a distinct flora in the EABH region dominated by species preferably occurring in humid climates, while also prodividing framework for future studies on conservation, ecology and evolution.


Liu H-M, Zhang S-Z, Wan T, Kamau PW, Wang Z-W, Grall A, Hemp A and Schneider H (2016) Exploring the pteridophyte flora of the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot. Journal of Systematics and Evolution. Wiley-Blackwell 54(6): 691–705. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/jse.12232.