Potential Natural Vegetation of South-Western and Central Kenya

A tool for the selection of indigenous tree species

Vegetation mapsIn many areas in the tropics with high human population pressure, original forest cover has disappeared as farmland replaces forests.  Although many farmers practice agroforestry and grow trees on their farms, agricultural landscapes are dominated by exotic species whereas densities of indigenous tree species have declined drastically.
The decline in coverage of indigenous tree species in human-dominated landscapes is accompanied by lack of ecological knowledge of where these species can be grown.
There is a growing interest of farmers, local governments and NGOs to grow indigenous tree species to provide timber, fruit, watershed protection, biodiversity and other services previously provided by forests. But information on tree species for certain areas has not been readily available - that is, until now.
Scientists in East Africa have found a solution to this problem. Ecologists Roeland Kindt, Paulo van Breugel and Jens-Peter B Lillesø lead a team that adapted old vegetation maps into easy-to-use decision support tools to help identify the best indigenous trees to grow on farms.
The team first studied detailed maps developed earlier by Trapnell and other researchers. These showed the vegetation cover in the Lake Victoria Basin and central Kenya in the 1960s. The team then developed new maps (later printed at a scale of 1:300,000) showing the original vegetation cover of the entire area. Next, they compiled species lists for each of the original vegetation types and obtained information on potential functions of each species from databases, literature and herbarium specimens from the East African Herbarium.