Plant Diversity ›› 2019, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (03): 198-205.doi: 10.1016/j.pld.2019.04.005

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Interactive influence of rainfall manipulation and livestock grazing on species diversity of the herbaceous layer community in a humid savannah in Kenya

Joseph O. Ondiera,b, Daniel O. Okachc, John C. Onyangoa, Dennis O. Otienob,c   

  1. a Department of Botany, Maseno University, Private Bag, Maseno, Kenya;
    b Department of Biological Sciences, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, P.O Box 210-40601, Bondo, Kenya;
    c Department of Plant Ecology, University of Bayreuth, D-95440, Bayreuth, Germany
  • Received:2018-12-21 Revised:2019-04-16 Online:2019-06-25 Published:2019-08-15
  • Contact: Joseph O. Ondier,E-mail
  • Supported by:
    We are grateful to International Foundation for Research Fund (IFS) under grant number I-1-D-6174-1 and National Research Fund, Kenya (NRF; 2016/17 FY) for funding this research.

Abstract: Changes in rainfall regime and grazing pressure affect vegetation composition and diversity with ecological implications for savannahs. The savannah in East Africa has experienced increased livestock grazing and rainfall variability but the impacts associated with those changes on the herbaceous layer have rarely been documented. We investigated the effect of livestock grazing, rainfall manipulation and their interaction on the composition and diversity of the herbaceous community in the savannah for two years in Lambwe, Kenya. Rainfall manipulation plots were set up for vegetation sampling; these plots received either 50% more or 50% less rainfall than control plots. Simpson's diversity and Bergere-Parker indices were used to determine diversity changes and dominance respectively. The frequency of species was used to compute their abundance and their life forms as determined from the literature. Grazing significantly increased species diversity through suppression of dominant species. Rainfall manipulation had no significant impact on plant diversity in fenced plots, but rainfall reduction significantly reduced diversity in grazed plots. In contrast, rainfall manipulation had no impact on dominance in either fenced or grazed plots. The interaction of grazing and rainfall manipulation is complex and will require additional survey campaigns to create a complete picture of the implications for savannah structure and composition.

Key words: Plant diversity, Grazing, Rainfall, Moist savannah