Abundance and Conservation Status of Prunus Africana in Western Mau Forest, Kenya
MetadataShow full item record
Prunus africana (Hook. f) Kalkman, 1965 (formerly Pygeum africanum Hook.f) is a geographically widespread tree restricted to highland forest of main land Africa and outlying islands. The species is commercially important for its bark, which is used in the treatment of prostate gland disorders. It also produces high quality timber used locally for building poles and furniture as well as fuel wood. The high demand for the bark has led to notable destruction of the species in natural forests, leading to concerns on the long term sustainability of harvesting and the conservation of the species. Despite the fact that Mau forest is a protected area, the region experiences illegal exploitation with P. africana being one of the main targets. The tree is of great demand for its strong timber and highly medicinal bark making its population to be under threat. As a result P. africana is listed as vulnerable species under Appendix II of CITES. In this study, information on P. africana was obtained mainly from literature survey while population data was obtained by sampling methods. The study was conducted in Western Mau forest (longitude E35027.05’ to E35039.42’ and latitude 0010’46’’S to 0017’42’’S) which is found in the South Rift region, Kericho county. Transects were laid across four blocks in Western Mau forest and diameter at breast height (dbh) and height of mature trees measured. The level and causes of disturbances were collected using questionaires and through observation and recorded for each of the plots. Saplings were counted and recorded in subplots and seedlings counted in micro plots. Densities of seedlings, saplings and mature P. africana trees were examined across the Western blocks of Mau forest. A socio-economic survey was further conducted to determine community perceptions on the status of the tree under study. The data generated were analyzed using both descriptive and inferential statistics. Data on height and dbh were summarized as mean ± SE and variations tested using one way ANOVA. Socio-economic data were mainly analyzed in form of proportions and variations between sites tested using chi-square statisctics.Data was presented in histograms, tables and graphs. Inferential statistics revealed significant variation in the density of saplings (p<0.05). Majority of the mature trees were of height between 20m and 40m though this height varied significantly between the blocks. As concerns dbh, most of the trees ranged between 40cm and 50cm with a signigficant variation between the blocks. The seedling numbers exceeded saplings and trees, suggesting potential for regeneration and population increase even though the population is not increasing. Observations showed that human activities, herbivory and diseases pose serious threats to P. africana tree. The local community was of the opinion that the main anthropogenic activities affecting the tree are unsustainable de-barking, logging, and animal grazing. It was recommended that awareness creation be organized regularly for all stakeholders on sustainable de-barking and logging be greatly regulated to save this tree of great value to mankind. The local community and more so those who rely on the tree for herbal medicine should be encouraged to grow the tree in their homestead gardens to reduce the pressure on wild trees thereby enhancing its conservation.