Recovery of Plant Species Richness and Composition in Abandoned Forest Settlement Area in Kenya

Recovery of Plant Species Richness and Composition in Abandoned Forest Settlement Area in Kenya


This paper examines natural regeneration of tree species in a former forest village settlement that had been cultivated and abandoned in Mau forest, Kenya. Following 19 years of abandonment, the site consists of 3 zones of recovery due to different degrees of degradation before abandonment, continued grazing, selective logging and firewood collection. The zones are grass zone (GZ), transition zone I (TZ I) and TZ II and secondary forests (SF).

Research Goals & Methods

Species richness, abundance, and composition of tree seedlings, saplings, adult trees, shrubs, and herbs were recorded in different zones, from a heavily degraded zone in the center of the settlement, through less disturbed TZs, and in the surrounding secondary forest (SF).

Conclusions & Takeaways

The results showed a gradual decrease in species richness and abundance of tree seedlings, saplings and adult trees from the heavily degraded GZ to the SF is a good indication of the rate of forest regeneration after abandonment. In addition, the results showed only a few species colonizing the TZ were found in the SF, suggesting that colonization of the site is a function of both neighboring vegetation and long distance dispersals. Also, the following species were identified to have the potential for restoration of degraded tropical forests in areas where they occur naturally because they have the ability to establish as seedlings and survive as saplings in sites with different degrees of degradation. They are Psychotria mahonii, Allophylus abyssinicus, Albizia gummifera, Neouboutonia macrocalyx, Polyscias fulva, Dombeya torrida, and Ekebergia capensisThe authors conclude that although the study may be limited to only one abandoned area, the results however are representative of recently abandoned lands in the East African region because of similar management history and forest landscapes.



Mullah CJA, Totland Ø, Klanderud K. Recovery of Plant Species Richness and Composition in an Abandoned Forest Settlement Area in Kenya. Restoration Ecology. 2011;20:462–474. doi:10.1111/j.1526-100x.2011.00810.x.


  • Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norway