Kakamega Forest, Kenya

Kakamega Forest, Kenya

Kakamega Forest is situated in Western Province Kenya, northwest of the capital Nairobi, and near to the border with Uganda. It is said to be Kenya’s last remnant of the ancient Guineo-Congolian rainforest that once spanned the continent. including reserves, the forest encloses about 230 square kilometers, a little less than half of which currently remains as indigenous forest. There are numerous grassy clearings and glades. Large mammals are rare. Part of the forest also contains unique and rich highland ecosystems, but generally, the fauna and flora of the Forest have not been comprehensively studied by science.

To counteract an increasing biodiversity decrease, parks and secure areas have been established worldwide. However, many parks lack satisfactory management to address environmental degradation. To enhance management strategies simple tools are required for an assessment of human impact and management effectiveness of secure areas. This study quantifies the present threats in the heavily fragmented and degraded tropical rainforest of Kakamega, western Kenya. We recorded seven disturbance parameters at 22 sites in differently managed and secured areas of Kakamega Forest. Our information indicates a high level of human impact throughout the forest with illegal logging being most widespread. Furthermore, logging levels appear to reflect management history and effectiveness.

From 1933 to 1986, Kakamega Forest was under management by the Forest Department and the number of trees logged more than 20 years ago was equally high at all sites. Since 1986, management of Kakamega Forest has been under two unique organizations, i.e. Forest Department and Kenya Wildlife Service. The number of trees logged illegally in the last 20 years was significantly lower at sites managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. At last, logging was lower within highly secured National and Nature Reserves as compared to high logging within the less secured Forest Reserves. Reflecting management effectiveness as well as protection status in Kakamega Forest, logging might, therefore, provide a valuable quantitative indicator for human disturbance and thus an important tool for conservation managers. Logging may be an important indicator for other protected areas, too, however, another human impact, For example, e.g. hunting might also prove to be a potential indicator.

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