Spatial Distribution of Opuntia Stricta (Haworth) in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya
Titus, Elizabeth K.
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Kenya has experienced biological invasions some of which are considered to have significant consequences on the socio-economic status of affected communities. At the ecosystem level, they change community structure and composition. Available data on invasive species in the East African region shows that 34 different species of invasive plants have invaded Kenya. Notable examples of invasive species include Opuntia stricta (Haw) and water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). This research was aimed at assessing the impact of the invasive O. stricta on other plant species and wildlife in the Tsavo East National Park, Kenya (TENP). The study area was divided into twelve transects which was 2km long and ten quadrats each 5m by 5m established systematically along each transect. Data on Opuntia stricta coverage, woody plants, dung of elephant to denote their presence and soil samples was collected in each quadrat. ANOVA was conducted on Opuntia stricta coverage and confirmed that its distribution differed significantly per the sampled transects. Correlation between Opuntia stricta and soil chemical composition, elephant distribution and presence of woody plants was carried out. Among the soil chemical composition investigated, phosphates negatively correlated with O. stricta cover at a significance level of p=0.002 for α =5%. Sodium amount and O. stricta cover were found to have a positive correlation at a significance level of P=0.039 for α= 5%. A positive correlation between the presence of elephants and O. stricta percentage cover was significant with r=0.37 and P=0.000 at α=5%. O. stricta cover and woody plant species had an insignificant positive correlation with P =0.177 at 5%. Findings of this study are crucial in any strategies adopted to guide in the control of rapid spread of O. stricta in Tsavo East National Park and other similar ecosystems.