A new study in the open access journal of Tropical Conservation Science finds that the Kasagala forest reserve in central Uganda is losing important tree species and suffering from low diversity of species. Researchers believe that forest degradation for charcoal and firewood has put heavy pressure on this ecosystem.
The Kasagala forest reserve, according to the authors, was “previously set aside to provide ecosystem services and offer catchment protection to Lake Kyoga, an inland water body that is gradually drying up due to loss of surrounding vegetation cover,” adding that “this forest is of immense ecological value” and is vital for local populations as Lake Kyoga provides water to over 100,000 people.
Both the overall forest area and the protected area are being squeezed. The authors write that “steep growth in human populations and a corresponding demand for agricultural land […] has reduced the buffer zone area of the forest,” while local demand for fuel wood has degraded the Kasagala forest itself.
In studying the diversity of tree and shrub species, researchers found that the forest had largely been stripped of its Combretum trees, leading to a wholesale change in species dominance. The researchers also found low species diversity in areas where humans had clearly been fragmenting the forest.
“Continued and uncontrolled removal of tree species such as Combretum for firewood and charcoal will alter the composition and structure of the woodland forest and adversely affect its biodiversity and ecosystem functions,” they write, adding that such a scenario will lead to a “a typical ‘tragedy of the common’ as people strive to obtain means of livelihood through extraction of the most commercially valuable species” until that species is essentially wiped-out, ending in a degraded ecosystem and a complete loss of the species people once depended on.
The researchers recommend officials undertake replanting of Combretum trees in the forest, while focusing on better protecting the lowland forests that are most threatened.
CITATION: Samson Gwali, Paul Okullo, David Hafashimana, and Denis Mujuni Byabashaija,. 2010. Taxonomic diversity, distinctness, and abundance of tree and shrub species in Kasagala forest reserve in Uganda: implications for management and conservation policy decisions. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 3 (3): 319-333.
(06/28/2010) A new study in Tropical Conservation Science finds that Kibale National Park in Uganda has retained its tropical forest despite pressures of a dense human population and large-scale clearing activities just beyond the border of the park. Home to twelve primate species, including Chimpanzees, the park is known as a safe-haven for African primates.
(01/15/2010) A company in Uganda is pressuring the environment ministry to allow it to log a protected forest reserve to establish a palm oil plantation, reports The New Vision.
(11/04/2008) Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni — a leader who has repeatedly sought to hand forest areas over to industrial developers and undermine the sanctity of reserves — is now blaming the country’s forestry agency for deforestation in Uganda.