An assessment of effects of human activities on vegetation characteristics in Chepalungu Forest; Bomet County, Kenya
Ronoh, Leonard Kiprotich
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Biodiversity values at forest ecosystem depend on how people use, manage and interact with the forest trees and trees outside the forest. Between 1990 and 2010 Kenya‟s forest cover significantly reduced by 6.5%. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of human activities on vegetation characteristics in Chepalungu Forest (CF). Specifically, the objectives were to establish human activities affecting vegetation in CF, determine vegetation characteristics, establish local community‟s perception on conservation measures and discern viable conservation measures in CF. Primary data constituted responses from randomly sampled local community, the herbalist, cultivators and foresters interviewed. Their response rate was 96%, 100%, 100%, and 60% respectively that were analyzed in SPSS. Obtaining firewood, grazing fodder, honey, herbs among others occurred very frequently in 88%, 83% 93%, and 90% respectively. Cutting, trampling and browsing as disturbance on trees accounted for 73%, 15% and 12% respectively. 98%, 81%, 75% and 40% of the respondents considered charcoal making, grazing, and browsing and firewood collection to be very destructive human activities occurring in CF respectively. The forest has decreased in a margin of 9% between 1985 and 2010 in its area with 7% attributed to clear-cutting established using change detection technique. CF has a tree diversity of 0.6, 0.4 and 0.3 in the edge, core and middle zones respectively measured on Simpson Species Diversity Index. It is dominated by Acokanthera schimperi, Teclea simplifolia and Euclea divinorum with common height of 3 m and range of 1 m to 7 m. This data was collected using stratified random sampling with established square quadrants along line transects. The forest is managed by protecting and replanting trees which 91% and 76% of residents and forest officers considers inadequate. The local community feels alienated from the conservation as 89% are of the view that conservation management be done by the residents. Collaboration of all stakeholders is preferred by 87% of the respondents and 95% proposed that fencing be done compared to 82% in favour of planting trees on farm among other viable conservation measures. Chi-square was conducted to test the significance of association. The forest has been over exploited by unregulated use. It has low tree diversity and diminishing potential for natural regeneration without which no conservation can be said sustainable. The community has the will though not involved thus alienating them. It is recommended that clear guidelines on the legal activities be developed by the forest department with public participation to regulate use of its resources. The forest department to develop inventory on what they are conserving to allow periodic audit that will guide conservation strategies. Determine and guide annual allowable cut. The forest department to embrace participatory management by encouraging and supporting the formation of community forest association.