It has been suggested that Tropical Africa be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since December 2021.

The Afrotropical realm is one of Earth's eight biogeographic realms. It includes Africa south of the Sahara Desert, the majority of the Arabian Peninsula, the island of Madagascar, southern Iran and extreme southwestern Pakistan, and the islands of the western Indian Ocean. It was formerly known as the Ethiopian Zone or Ethiopian Region.

Major ecological regions

Most of the Afrotropic, with the exception of Africa's southern tip, has a tropical climate. A broad belt of deserts, including the Atlantic and Sahara deserts of northern Africa and the Arabian Desert of the Arabian Peninsula, separate the Afrotropic from the Palearctic realm, which includes northern Africa and temperate Eurasia.

Sahel and Sudan

South of the Sahara, two belts of tropical grassland and savanna run east and west across the continent, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ethiopian Highlands. Immediately south of the Sahara lies the Sahel belt, a transitional zone of semi-arid short grassland and vachellia savanna. Rainfall increases further south in the Sudanian Savanna, also known simply as the Sudan, a belt of taller grasslands and savannas. The Sudanian Savanna is home to two great flooded grasslands, the Sudd wetland in South Sudan, and the Niger Inland Delta in Mali. The forest-savanna mosaic is a transitional zone between the grasslands and the belt of tropical moist broadleaf forests near the equator.

Southern Arabian woodlands

South Arabia, which includes Yemen and parts of western Oman and southwestern Saudi Arabia, has few permanent forests. Some of the notable ones are Jabal Bura, Jabal Raymah, and Jabal Badaj in the Yemeni highland escarpment and the seasonal forests in eastern Yemen and the Dhofar region of Oman. Other woodlands scatter the land and are very small and are predominantly Juniperus or Vachellia forests.

Forest zone

Main article: Guineo-Congolian region

The forest zone, a belt of lowland tropical moist broadleaf forests, runs across most of equatorial Africa's intertropical convergence zone. The Upper Guinean forests of West Africa extend along the coast from Guinea to Togo. The Dahomey Gap, a zone of forest-savanna mosaic that reaches to the coast, separates the Upper Guinean forests from the Lower Guinean forests, which extend along the Gulf of Guinea from eastern Benin through Cameroon and Gabon to the western Democratic Republic of the Congo. The largest tropical forest zone in Africa is the Congolian forests of the Congo Basin in Central Africa.

A belt of tropical moist broadleaf forest also runs along the Indian Ocean coast, from southern Somalia to South Africa.

East African grasslands and savannas

Eastern Africa's highlands

Afromontane region, from the Ethiopian Highlands to the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, including the East African Rift. Distinctive flora, including Podocarpus and Afrocarpus, as well as giant Lobelias and Senecios.

Zambezian region

Main article: Zambezian region

The Zambezian region includes woodlands, savannas, grasslands, and thickets. Characteristic plant communities include Miombo woodlands, drier mopane and Baikiaea woodlands, and higher-elevation Bushveld. It extends from east to west in a broad belt across the continent, south of the rainforests of the Guineo-Congolian region, and north of the deserts of southeastern Africa, the countries are Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the subtropical.[1]

Deserts of southern Africa

Southern Africa as described in Plant Taxonomic Database Standards No. 2
Southern Africa as described in Plant Taxonomic Database Standards No. 2

Cape floristic region

The Cape floristic region, at Africa's southern tip, is a Mediterranean climate region that is home to a significant number of endemic taxa, as well as to plant families like the proteas (Proteaceae) that are also found in the Australasian realm.

Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands

Main article: Ecoregions of Madagascar

Madagascar and neighboring islands form a distinctive sub-region of the realm, with numerous endemic taxa like the lemurs. Madagascar and the Granitic Seychelles are old pieces of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, and broke away from Africa millions of years ago. Other Indian Ocean islands, like the Comoros and Mascarene Islands, are volcanic islands that formed more recently. Madagascar contains a variety of plant habitats, from rainforests to mountains and deserts, as its biodiversity and ratio of endemism is extremely high.

Endemic plants and animals


The Afrotropical realm is home to a number of endemic plant families. Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands are home to ten endemic families of flowering plants; eight are endemic to Madagascar (Asteropeiaceae, Didymelaceae, Didiereaceae, Kaliphoraceae, Melanophyllaceae, Physenaceae, Sarcolaenaceae, and Sphaerosepalaceae), one to Seychelles (Mesdusagynaceae), and one to the Mascarene Islands (Psiloxylaceae). Twelve plant families are endemic or nearly endemic to South Africa (including Curtisiaceae, Heteropyxidaceae, Penaeaceae, Psiloxylaceae, and Rhynchocalycaceae) of which five are endemic to the Cape floristic province (including Grubbiaceae). Other endemic Afrotropic families include Barbeyaceae, Dirachmaceae, Montiniaceae, Myrothamnaceae, and Oliniaceae.


Main article: Fauna of Africa

The East African Great Lakes (Victoria, Malawi, and Tanganyika) are the center of biodiversity of many freshwater fishes, especially cichlids (they harbor more than two-thirds of the estimated 2,000 species in the family).[2] The West African coastal rivers region covers only a fraction of West Africa, but harbours 322 of West Africa's fish species, with 247 restricted to this area and 129 restricted even to smaller ranges. The central rivers fauna comprises 194 fish species, with 119 endemics and only 33 restricted to small areas.[3]

The Afrotropic has various endemic bird families, including ostriches (Struthionidae), sunbirds, the secretary bird (Sagittariidae), guineafowl (Numididae), and mousebirds (Coliidae). Also, several families of passerines are limited to the Afrotropics; These include rock-jumpers (Chaetopidae) and rockfowl (Picathartidae).

Africa has three endemic orders of mammals, the Tubulidentata (aardvarks), Afrosoricida (tenrecs and golden moles), and Macroscelidea (elephant shrews). The East-African plains are well known for their diversity of large mammals.

Four species of great apes (Hominidae) are endemic to Central Africa: both species of gorilla (western gorilla, Gorilla gorilla, and eastern gorilla, Gorilla beringei) and both species of chimpanzee (common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, and bonobo, Pan paniscus). Humans and their ancestors originated in Africa.

Afrotropical terrestrial ecoregions

Ecoregions of the Afrotropical realm, color-coded by biome. Dark green: tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests. Light brown: tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests. Yellow: tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands. Light green: temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands. Light blue: flooded grasslands and savannas. Light purple: montane grasslands and shrublands. Brown: Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub. Beige: deserts and xeric shrublands. Magenta: mangroves
Albertine Rift montane forests Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda
Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon
Cameroonian Highlands forests Cameroon, Nigeria
Central Congolian lowland forests Democratic Republic of the Congo
Comoros forests Comoros
Cross–Niger transition forests Nigeria
Cross–Sanaga–Bioko coastal forests Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria
East African montane forests Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda
Eastern Arc forests Tanzania, Kenya
Eastern Congolian swamp forests Democratic Republic of the Congo
Eastern Guinean forests Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo
Ethiopian montane forests Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan
Granitic Seychelles forests Seychelles
Guinean montane forests Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone
Knysna–Amatole montane forests South Africa
KwaZulu–Cape coastal forest mosaic South Africa
Madagascar lowland forests Madagascar
Madagascar subhumid forests Madagascar
Maputaland coastal forest mosaic Eswatini (Swaziland), Mozambique, South Africa
Mascarene forests Mauritius, Réunion
Mount Cameroon and Bioko montane forests Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea
Niger Delta swamp forests Nigeria
Nigerian lowland forests Benin, Nigeria
Northeastern Congolian lowland forests Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Republic of the Congo
Northern Zanzibar–Inhambane coastal forest mosaic Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania
Northwestern Congolian lowland forests Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Republic of the Congo
São Tomé, Príncipe, and Annobón forests Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe
Southern Zanzibar–Inhambane coastal forest mosaic Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe
Western Congolian swamp forests Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo
Western Guinean lowland forests Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone
Cape Verde Islands dry forests Cape Verde
Madagascar dry deciduous forests Madagascar
Zambezian Cryptosepalum dry forests Zambia, Angola
Angolan miombo woodlands Angola
Angolan mopane woodlands Angola, Namibia
Ascension scrub and grasslands Ascension Island
Central Zambezian miombo woodlands Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia
East Sudanian savanna Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda
Eastern miombo woodlands Mozambique, Tanzania
Guinean forest–savanna mosaic Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo
Itigi–Sumbu thicket Tanzania, Zambia
Kalahari Acacia-Baikiaea woodlands Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe
Mandara Plateau mosaic Cameroon, Nigeria
Northern Acacia–Commiphora bushlands and thickets Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda
Northern Congolian forest–savanna mosaic Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Uganda
Sahelian Acacia savanna Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan
Serengeti volcanic grasslands Kenya, Tanzania
Somali Acacia–Commiphora bushlands and thickets Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia
South Arabian fog woodlands, shrublands, and dune Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Southern Acacia–Commiphora bushlands and thickets Kenya, Tanzania
Southern Africa bushveld Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe
Southern Congolian forest–savanna mosaic Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Southern miombo woodlands Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Saint Helena scrub and woodlands Saint Helena
Victoria Basin forest–savanna mosaic Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda
West Sudanian savanna Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea,Mali, Ivory Coast, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal
Western Congolian forest–savanna mosaic Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo
Western Zambezian grasslands Angola, Zambia
Zambezian and mopane woodlands Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Zambezian Baikiaea woodlands Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Al Hajar montane woodlands Oman, United Arab Emirates
Amsterdam and Saint-Paul Islands temperate grasslands Amsterdam Island, Saint-Paul Island
Tristan da Cunha–Gough Islands shrub and grasslands Tristan da Cunha, Gough Island
East African halophytics Kenya, Tanzania
Etosha Pan halophytics Namibia
Inner Niger Delta flooded savanna Mali
Lake Chad flooded savanna Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria
Saharan flooded grasslands South Sudan
Zambezian coastal flooded savanna Mozambique
Zambezian flooded grasslands Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia
Zambezian halophytics Botswana
Angolan montane forest–grassland mosaic Angola
Angolan Scarp savanna and woodlands Angola
Drakensberg alti-montane grasslands and woodlands Lesotho, South Africa
Drakensberg montane grasslands, woodlands and forests Lesotho, South Africa, Eswatini (Swaziland)
East African montane moorlands Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda
Eastern Zimbabwe montane forest–grassland mosaic Mozambique, Zimbabwe
Ethiopian montane grasslands and woodlands Ethiopia, Sudan
Ethiopian montane moorlands Ethiopia, Sudan
Highveld grasslands Lesotho, South Africa
Jos Plateau forest–grassland mosaic Nigeria
Madagascar ericoid thickets Madagascar
Maputaland–Pondoland bushland and thickets Mozambique, South Africa, Eswatini (Swaziland)
Rwenzori–Virunga montane moorlands Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda
South Malawi montane forest–grassland mosaic Malawi, Mozambique
Southern Rift montane forest–grassland mosaic Malawi, Tanzania
Albany thickets South Africa
Lowland fynbos and renosterveld South Africa
Montane fynbos and renosterveld South Africa
Arabian Peninsula coastal fog desert Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Aldabra Island xeric scrub Seychelles
East Saharan montane xeric woodlands Chad, Sudan
Eritrean coastal desert Djibouti, Eritrea
Ethiopian xeric grasslands and shrublands Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan
Gulf of Oman desert and semi-desert Oman, United Arab Emirates
Hobyo grasslands and shrublands Somalia
Ile Europa and Bassas da India xeric scrub Bassas da India, Europa
Kalahari xeric savanna Botswana, Namibia, South Africa
Kaokoveld desert Angola, Namibia
Madagascar spiny thickets Madagascar
Madagascar succulent woodlands Madagascar
Masai xeric grasslands and shrublands Ethiopia, Kenya
Nama Karoo Namibia, South Africa
Namib desert Namibia
Namibian savanna woodlands Namibia
Socotra Island xeric shrublands Yemen
Somali montane xeric woodlands Somalia
Southwestern Arabian foothills savanna Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Southwestern Arabian montane woodlands Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Succulent Karoo South Africa
Central African mangroves Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Niger Delta
East African mangroves Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania
Guinean mangroves Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast
Madagascar mangroves Madagascar
Southern Africa mangroves Mozambique, South Africa

See also


  1. ^ Linder, H. Peter, Helen M. de Klerk, Julia Born et al. (2012). "The partitioning of Africa: statistically defined biogeographical regions in sub‐Saharan Africa". Journal of Biogeography, Volume 39, Issue 7 May 2012. [1]
  2. ^ I.P.Farias et al., Total Evidence: Molecules, Morphology, and the Phylogenetics of Cichlid Fishes, Journal of Experimental Zoology (Mol Dev Evol) 288:76–92 (2000)
  3. ^ T.Moritz and K. E. Linsenmair, West African fish diversity – distribution patterns and possible conclusions for conservation strategies (in African Biodiversity: Molecules, Organisms, Ecosystems, Springer, 2001)
  4. ^ Eric Dinerstein, David Olson, Anup Joshi, Carly Vynne, Neil D. Burgess, Eric Wikramanayake, Nathan Hahn, Suzanne Palminteri, Prashant Hedao, Reed Noss, Matt Hansen, Harvey Locke, Erle C Ellis, Benjamin Jones, Charles Victor Barber, Randy Hayes, Cyril Kormos, Vance Martin, Eileen Crist, Wes Sechrest, Lori Price, Jonathan E. M. Baillie, Don Weeden, Kierán Suckling, Crystal Davis, Nigel Sizer, Rebecca Moore, David Thau, Tanya Birch, Peter Potapov, Svetlana Turubanova, Alexandra Tyukavina, Nadia de Souza, Lilian Pintea, José C. Brito, Othman A. Llewellyn, Anthony G. Miller, Annette Patzelt, Shahina A. Ghazanfar, Jonathan Timberlake, Heinz Klöser, Yara Shennan-Farpón, Roeland Kindt, Jens-Peter Barnekow Lillesø, Paulo van Breugel, Lars Graudal, Maianna Voge, Khalaf F. Al-Shammari, Muhammad Saleem, An Ecoregion-Based Approach to Protecting Half the Terrestrial Realm, BioScience, Volume 67, Issue 6, June 2017, Pages 534–545, [2].