Plant communities in the montane forest of Mount Elgon National Park were studied in order to assess the impact of grazing and cultivation on species composition. Present and former land uses, tree, shrub and herb species, soil properties and the percentage cover and height of trees, shrubs and herbs were determined in 40 plots. An indirect ordination of these plots showed that species composition was primarily determined by successional stage and agricultural disturbance. In forest plots (ordinated separately) where the widest range of former and current grazing intensities had occurred, evidence of grazing history, soil phosphorus and vegetation height correlated negatively with the strongest ordination axis. Least grazed forest plots had fewer tree seedlings and saplings than more intensively grazed plots. This may be due to the increase in Mimulopsis alpina (Acanthaceae) in less grazed forest where tree regeneration might otherwise be more advanced. Tree seedlings and saplings were uncommon in the forest, rarely exceeding 30 cm in height and there was no tree understorey. Although grazing is important for preserving species diversity in Mount Elgon National Park through the maintenance of species-rich grasslands, long-term effects on montane forest communities must be considered in future park management.
- montane forest
- Mount Elgon