The Horn of Africa is under heavy pressure from human activity, and is one of the most degraded hotspots in the world, with only about 5 percent of original habitat in relatively pristine condition. Nearly all of the land area is used for grazing, mainly by camels, goats and sheep. Overgrazing and subsequent land degradation is a problem in large areas of the hotspot, particularly near watering points. Shifting cultivation is particularly destructive in parts of central and southern Somalia, where bushland and woodland are cut and burned for the cultivation of cassava. Stands of many unique tree species, including the dragon tree on Socotra and the daban palm in Somalia, are increasingly becoming overmature with little regeneration.
The greatest threat to vegetation and biodiversity in Somalia is the uncontrolled production of charcoal, to cover both domestic needs and for export to countries in the Arabian Gulf region. The most sought after tree for charcoal production is Acacia bussei. Although the tree itself is not a threatened species, woodlands formerly dominated by Acacia bussei are rapidly dwindling as the destruction of big trees changes the composition and structure of the ecosystems. Agricultural schemes in the Rift Valley and along rivers in Somalia and Ethiopia also threaten the biodiversity of riparian habitats.
However, perhaps the most serious barrier to conservation activities in this hotspot is the lack of governance and political instability. Overseas investment in, and aid to, the region has been particularly scarce, following US military involvement in Somalia and the notorious "Black Hawk Down" fiasco.
On Socotra, the major threats are infrastructure development, including the building of a new port, an airport and new roads. Although there is great potential for sensitively managed ecotourism on the island, the influence of this development on biodiversity must be carefully monitored.
Finally, uncontrolled hunting, particularly of ungulates, is a serious threat in many parts of the hotspot.