Marieke Sassen, Programme Officer for Ecosystem Assessment, has co-authored a paper entitled “Human impacts on forest structure and species richness on the edges of a protected mountain forest in Uganda.” Marieke has particular expertise in this area of work; she has nearly completed her PhD at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, on forest cover change on Mt Elgon, Uganda, having worked for the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Cameroon and Gabon previously.
The paper investigates the relationship between local scale variation in human impacts and forest structure and tree species richness using transects running inwards within Mt Elgon National Park. Four different sites were studied, and each site was at a different stage of recovery after heavy encroachment for agriculture. Measurements of basal area, stem density, diameter at breast height, and indicators of human activity were taken. With regards to forest structure, areas of forest encroached for agriculture had, on average, a lower basal area, stem density and diameter at breast height than areas which had never been cleared before, and these values increased further into the park, although such values are also naturally affected by elevation. Human activity also impacted negatively on species richness, though only a small section of the forest-range was sampled, so it was harder to identify the impact of humans on species richness compared to forest structure. This study illustrates the fine scale variation due to local impacts within one forest.
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