The spatial distribution of Encephalartos Whitelockii along Mpanga River
Kamurasi, Lameck Ivan
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Encephalartos whitelockii is a species of cycads endemic to the Mpanga River Gorge in Western Uganda. It exists on an area about 210ha along the Gorge. This Cycad is listed in the IUCN Red list of threatened species as Critically Endangered. This study maps the spatial distribution of the Cycads along the Gorge and investigate the threats to E. whitelockii in the Gorge. Stratified random sampling was used in data collection of Global Positioning System points of individuals in 8 quadrats and 20 sample plots of 50 X 50m covering an area of 25 hectares to represent the entire 210ha area cover of the Cycads. This data was used to generate distribution Maps of the E. whitelockii. The Cycads were found to have a clustered distribution, were highly distributed in the middle and lower slope, whereas the upper slope was very sparsely populated. This distribution is attributed to human activities such as clearing the cycads for agricultural land use and bush burning which prevents regeneration of the Cycads. Construction sites and abandoned stockpiles coupled with numerous roads in the area surrounding the Mpanga Hydro Power Station also create small fragments with in the Cycad protection area and the soil compaction to make roads and parking areas does not permit regeneration of the Cycads in such areas. This study recommends that further research on the micro-catchment conditions of the Mpanga Gorge and the social systems of the frontline communities in order to develop new land use by-laws and conservation measures to protect the Cycads. The area should also be designated as an ecotourism site and marketed to open up the area for tourism. This could attract investment in ecotourism activities in the area, create employment, and improve community perceptions towards conserving E. whitelockii. It is further recommended that the upper slopes that have been highly degraded due to human activity be restored and indigenous trees species such as Combrettum molle and Acacia hockii should be planted on the edges of the protected areas to reduce edge effects on the newly planted Cycads but also reduce proximity of the Cycads from Human activities.