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Human impact on flora and vegetation of Kakamega Forest, Kenya

  • In the present study the flora and vegetation of Kakamega Forest, an East African rainforest in Western Kenya, was investigated. Kakamega Forest is highly degraded and fragmented and is an ideal model to study the anthropogenic influence on the forest inventory. The main focus was to analyse the influence of human impact on the vascular plant species composition. During five field phases in the years 2001 to 2004 a total of 19 study sites scattered over the whole forest including all fragments were investigated regarding forest structure, species composition and plant communities. The different forest sites were analysed by three different methods, phytosociological relevés, line-transect and with the variable-area transect method. The forest survey revealed about 400 taxa of vascular plant species, among them 112 trees, 62 shrubs, 58 climbers and 114 herbs. Several species are restricted to this forest in Kenya, but only one endemic species, the herb Commelina albiflora, could be discovered. About 15 species were recorded as new for Kenya and probably at least one species is new to science. Kakamega Forest is a unique mixture of Guineo-Congolian and Afromontane floral elements. About one half of the vascular plant species has its origin in the lowland forests of the Congo basin and one third originates from Afromontane habitats. The present study represents the first description of plant communities of Kakamega Forest. An analysis of different forest sites and plantations resulted in 17 different vegetation units. For the mature forest sites eleven plant communities were described. The young succession stage consists of two plant communities. Since the disturbance history and the age of the different plant communities could be estimated, their chronology was also described. An exception are the study sites within the plantations and afforested sites. The four defined vegetation units were not described as plant communities, because they are highly affected by man and do not belong to the natural succession of Kakamega Forest. Nevertheless, the regeneration potential of such forests was investigated. Due to the different succession stages the changing species composition along a disturbance gradient could be analysed. Most of Kakamega Forest consists of middle-aged secondary forest often surrounded by very young secondary forest. A true primary rainforest could not be found due the massive influence by over-exploitation. In all parts of the forest the anthropogenic influence could be observed. The forest develops towards a climax stage, but a 2 Abstract comparison with former surveys shows that the regeneration is much slower than expected. Human impact has to be avoided to allow the forest to develop into a primary-like rainforest. But several climax tree species might be missing anyway, because after the broad logging activities in the past there are not enough seed trees remaining. Species richness was highest in disturbed forest sites. A mixture of pioneer, climax and bushland species could be recorded there. Therefore, a high species richness is not a suitable indicator for forest quality. The proportion of climax species typical for Kakamega Forest would be a better measure. Compared to the main forest block the forest fragments do not lack in diversity as expected due to fragmentation processes. Instead, the only near primary forest could be recorded in Kisere, a northern fragment. The high amount of climax species and the more or less undisturbed forest structure is a result of the strict protection by the Kenya Wildlife Service and due to low logging activities. Differences in species composition between the studied forest sites are either a result of the different logging history or management regime rather than due to different edaphic or climatic conditions.

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Metadaten
Author:Arnhild Johanna Althof
URN:urn:nbn:de:hbz:kob7-220
Subtitle (English):structure, distribution and disturbance of plant communities in an East African rainforest
Referee:Eberhard Fischer, Wilhelm Barthlott
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Language:English
Date of completion:2005/09/21
Date of publication:2005/09/21
Publishing institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Koblenz, Universitätsbibliothek
Granting institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Koblenz, Fachbereich 3
Date of final exam:2005/08/03
Release Date:2005/09/21
Tag:Habitat Fragmentation; Human Disturbance; Kakamega Forest; Kenya; Plant Communities; Vegetation
Number of pages:205
Institutes:Fachbereich 3 / Institut für Integrierte Naturwissenschaften / Institut für Integrierte Naturwissenschaften, Abt. Biologie
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das deutsche Urheberrecht: § 53 UrhG