An annotated checklist of the coastal forests of Kenya, East Africa.
The inadequacy of information impedes society's competence to find out the cause or degree of a problem or even to avoid further losses in an ecosystem. It becomes even harder to identify all the biological resources at risk because there is no exhaustive inventory of either fauna or flora of a particular region. Coastal forests of Kenya are located in the southeast part of Kenya and are distributed mainly in four counties: Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, and Tana River County. They are a stretch of fragmented forests ca. 30-120 km away from the Indian Ocean, and they have existed for millions of years. Diversity of both fauna and flora is very high in these relicts and the coastal forests of Eastern Africa, extending along the coast from Somalia through Kenya and Tanzania to Mozambique, are ranked among the priority biodiversity hotspot in the world. In spite of the high plant species richness and their importance towards supporting the livelihoods of the communities that live around them, floristic studies in these forests have remained poorly investigated. Hence, based on numerous field investigations, plant lists from published monograph/literature, and data from BRAHMS (Botanical Records and Herbarium Management System) database at East African herbarium (EA), we present a detailed checklist of vascular plants recorded in this region. Our results show that Kenyan coastal forests play an essential role in the flora of Kenya and the plant diversity of the coastal forests of East Africa. The checklist represents 176 families, 981 genera, 2489 species, 100 infraspecific taxa, 90 endemic plants species, 72 exotic species, and 120 species that are included in the current IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as species of major concern. We also discovered three new species to the world from these relicts. Thus, Kenyan coastal forests present a remarkable and significant center of plant diversity.