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Title: Rehabilitation of community-owned, mixed-use rangelands: Lessons from the Ewaso ecosystem in Kenya

item KIMITI, DAVID - New Mexico State University
item HODGE, A.M.C. - University Of Wyoming
item Herrick, Jeffrey - Jeff
item BEH, ADAM - New Mexico State University
item ABBOTT, LAURIE - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Plant Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/15/2016
Publication Date: 2/1/2017
Publication URL:
Citation: Kimiti, D., Hodge, A., Herrick, J.E., Beh, A., Abbott, L. 2017. Rehabilitation of community-owned, mixed-use rangelands: Lessons from the Ewaso ecosystem in Kenya. Plant Ecology. 218:23-37. doi:10.1007/s11258-016-0691-9.

Interpretive Summary: This paper describes patterns of rangeland degradation in north-central Kenya, and identifies the primary drivers associated with conversion of grass-dominated savannas to shrub and cactus (prickly pear)-dominated plant communities. These commmunities support much lower livestock populations, and result in a shift in the types of wildlife. It reviews restoration attempts and reports that while restoration of shrub-invaded savannas can be successful, there are few successful examples for cactus-dominated communities. It concludes with a discussion of the importance of monitoring restoration impacts with controls carefully matched based on soils, topography, and initial vegetation cover.

Technical Abstract: Globally, 10-20% of arid and semi-arid rangelands have been classified as severely degraded (UNCCD 1994; MEA 2005), and in sub-Saharan Africa specifically, 70% of rangelands are considered moderately to severely degraded (Dregne 1992; UNCCD 1994). Given that these drylands make up 43% of Africa’s land area and support approximately 45% of its population, restoring, maintaining and even increasing their productivity is imperative from both conservation and food security standpoints. In the Laikipia and Samburu counties of North Central Kenya, degradation manifests itself through the increase of bare ground and the replacement of perennial grasses by undesirable plant species, primarily Acacia reficiens and Opuntia stricta, resulting in reduced forage availability. Further complicating management options is the fact that most land in this ecosystem is owned by community conservancies, where the land is managed to support both wildlife and livestock grazing. There has been considerable effort targeted towards using mechanical clearing coupled with reseeding to combat A. reficiens spread. Additionally, the use of both traditional and modern mobile cattle enclosures (commonly referred to as bomas) to initiate autogenic restoration has had an impact on creating vegetation patches in areas with increasing bare ground. Here, we look at the challenges faced in implementing these interventions, as well as the successes and opportunities associated with them.