Rangeland management and vegetation ordination in three community ranches in Samburu County, Kenya
Nyoike, Mugechi M.
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Rangelands have a harsh and variable physical environment typical of arid to semi arid areas that receive low and erratic rainfall of less than 450mm per year. The challenge of the rangeland potential today is to balance livestock productivity for a growing human population with conservation of vegetation for both wildlife and livestock. This study set to determine past and current land use management practices among the Samburu people in context of the social economic infrastructure development in the area. The study also aimed to establish whether there is clustering in the spatial distribution of plant species and the plant-soil relationship in the study area. Data was collected in Basalinga, Ngotuk Ongiron and Ngaloni community ranches of Samburu County. The results based on field land use data, observations and laboratory data obtained from soil chemical analysis revealed that Samburu people employ range, herd and wells management skills to ensure there is availability of forage for their livestock throughout the year. In addition, the study shows there has been an increase in the development of the social economic infrastructures in the area. The results further indicate that despite the Samburu community being pastoralist, their movement is continually constrained by availability of social amenities. Modified Braun Blanquet cover/abundance rating was used to determine the species abundance. Result indicates that plants with a height of less than a meter had highest abundance. Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DCA) results confirm floristic clustering in spatial distribution of plant species in Samburu eco-region while Detrended Canonical Correspondence Analysis (DCCA) indicated plant species had 68.1% relationship with measured soil variables. The sum of all unconstrained Eigen values for both DCA and DCCA in this study had similar value of 2.725 as expected in a normal (unconstrained) correspondence analysis. This implies important explanatory variables were measured and included in the analysis. For further understanding of the land use and vegetation condition in Samburu eco-region, this study recommends that further research be undertaken to determine the forage value of the vegetation in the study area for both wildlife and livestock.