Impact of natural resource management programme on savanah biodiversity in three group ranches in Laikipia district, Kenya
Lara, Salido Grana
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This study looked at the impact of Natural Resource Management (NRM) programmes on the biodiversity of savannah ecosystems and their effectiveness as biodiversity conservation tools. Habitat and attitudinal changes were investigated in three group ranches (Koija, Tiamamut and Kijabe) in northern Laikipia District (Kenya) following five years of NRM programmes consisting of land division into: conservation, grazing and settlement areas. The study used biodiversity and range condition surveys to determine the current status of vegetation and mammal populations, coupled with GIS technology to assess land cover changes. In addition, a structured questionnaire was used to investigate the perceptions of the local communities on the NRM programme. The GIS and remote sensing analysis revealed an increase in bushland vegetation cover mainly in conservation areas (12.8%) and shrubland decrease in grazing and settlement areas (16.2%). The study showed higher vegetation species diversity and better range conditions in conservation areas as compared to both grazing and settlement areas in all group ranches. Tree species richness was significantly higher in the conservancy than either grazing or settlement areas within each group ranch (Koija F=3.547, p=0.035, n=60; Tiamamut F= 3.57, p=0.036, n=49; Kijabe F=14.6, p<0.001, n=59). A significant difference between land uses in shrub species richness was also noted in Kijabe (F=7.144, p=0.002, n=59). The decreasing values from conservancy to settlement areas were observed for plant diversity indices though no significant difference was recorded in any group ranch except for shrubs diversity in Koija (r=-0.998, p=0.021, n=60). Vegetation communities and species distribution were different between and within group ranches. Pair-wise comparisons amongst group ranches showed Koija and Kijabe being the most dissimilar. Comparisons within group ranches showed particularly strong differences among land uses in Kijabe. Furthermore, most rare vegetation species were present mainly in conservancy areas. Variation in mammal abundance and diversity followed a similar pattern to that of vegetation, with higher a species number and diversity in the conservancy areas of the three group ranches (Kijabe r=-996, p=0.027, n=3). Leopards and lesser kudus were present only in conservancy areas of Kijabe. Community responses suggested an improvement in livelihood (-100% of respondents) and livestock health (73%) since the introduction of NRM programmes. However, despite such gains, in all group ranches an increase in human-wildlife conflict (-90%), decrease in quality of grazing (56%) and reduction in the number of livestock (80%) were noted. Regarding management of the conservancy areas, the main reasons given by respondents for protecting the conservation areas were preservation for future use and as tourist attractions (53% and 42% respectively). However, in Koija and Tiamamut the communities still graze in them (100%). On human-wildlife conflict, all group ranches reported encounters with carnivores (64%) with the main responses being moving livestock away (31%) or chasing the wildlife (25%). This study has shown that the NRM programme has had a positive effect in conservation areas, mostly in Koija and Kijabe, through increase in biodiversity, vegetation cover and better range condition. However, this is not the case at Tiamamut, which does not follow the NRM programme strictly. The NRM programme has also had a detrimental effect on grazing and settlement areas through increase in livestock grazing pressure as a result of reduced pasture areas. Therefore, it may be necessary to implement more inclusive NRM programmes with adequate active rangeland management and long-term biodiversity-monitoring programmes.
- MST-Zoological Sciences 
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