Overview of Biodiversity
A swath of thick forest surrounded by arid ecosystem, the Cal Madow forests are a hotspot of biodiversity. The area is officially recognized as an Important Biodiversity Area and is a regional center of endemism in the Horn of Africa. The biodiversity is not well known; many areas in the mountains are remote and not scientifically explored. However, over 1000 species of plants have been discovered here, with up to 200 found nowhere else. Three hundred species of birds, 4 endemic, and dozens of species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians live in the forests–with many species likely yet to be discovered and described.
The Cal Madow area consists of an arid coastal plain, transitioning into sub-coastal hills that while largely arid are covered in Acacia, Commiphora, and Boswellia species of varying densities. At intermediate elevations of the escarpment itself, the ecosystem is wetter and dominated by thick evergreen scrub with many different species of Buxus, Pistacia, Cadia, Boswellia, Commiphora, Olea, and Dracaena. At the highest elevations, along the top of the escarpment, the evergreen scrub transitions into old-growth Juniperus procera forest, some of the last in Somaliland, much of which is degraded but some of which is still intact. Here, the long history of organic matter has built up rich black soil, a rare sight in Somaliland and absolutely essential for healthy forest.
There are many examples of fabulous species and research into the mountains’ biodiversity is still ongoing. A few examples of the biological bounty, though, include 7 species of endangered endemic aloes, such as the magnificent tree Aloe eminens. Growing up to 18 meters tall and sporting bright red flower clusters, this plant towers over the observer. It is endangered and restricted to a small area of the Cal Madow. Other endemic plants include Euphorbia mitriformis and Renschia heterotypica.
The Warsangeli Linnet, Carduelis johannis, is somewhat of a mascot of the Juniper forest. A small seed-eating finch, the Linnet is found exclusively in the juniper forest, though it is not clear what level of degradation it can tolerate. Due to the threat to its habitat, it is endangered and possibly declining. The Somali Pigeon (Columba oliviae) is found in the escarpment and a number of other places. Endemic to Somalia, it is poorly known and is classified as Data Deficient by the IUCN.
As the mountains are explored and documented more fully, there will undoubtedly be new species discovered and ever more stories to tell.