Interpreting Resource Gradients and Patches for the Conservation of Woody Plant Diversity at Mt. Kasigau, Kenya

Kimberly E. Medley, Zaphania Mwandoe, Moses Mwamodo, Juma Zungi, Danson Mwatate, Nashon Njege

Abstract


Biodiversity conservation at Mt. Kasigau, Kenya in the Eastern Arc Mountains relies on understanding how plants are distributed on the mountain and integrated into local livelihoods. We focus on woody plants, and ask: (1) how does resource richness change with altitude; and, (2) can resource patches be identified that prioritize plant conservation within vegetation zones? The study measured the composition, structure, and use of woody plants in 55 nested plots stratified across bushland, montane woodland, and evergreen forest. Plant uses average highest in bushland below human settlements, show greatest variation in montane woodland, and are significantly lower in evergreen forest. Resource diversity correlates with species richness along the altitudinal gradient (r= 0.89), especially for food (0.64) and construction (0.59), but also shows distinct resource patches at locations in montane woodland. Species richness patterns at Mt. Kasigau confirm a high diversity of plant communities that can be used to collaboratively guide conservation planning


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