Productivity and Conservation Practices for Balanites Aegyptiaca (Desert Date) in Napak Woodlands
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B. aegyptiaca is economically and ecologically important Indigenous Fruit Trees in the dry savanna woodlands across Africa. The local communities have used it for generations. The tree has immense contribution to livelihoods and amelioration of micro climate where B. aegyptiaca occurs. Despite it being ranked among lost priority crops, there is no clear understanding of B. aegyptiaca productivity and conservation strategies under different land uses in Karamoja sub-region and Napak woodland in particular. The specific objectives of the study were to: examine size class distribution of B. aegyptiaca, to quantify fruit productivity on different landscapes of the woodland, estimate amount of Above Ground Carbon (AGC) that can be sequestered by B. aegyptiaca and to assess local conservation strategies for B. aegyptiaca in Napak woodland. All Dbh of B. aegyptiaca ≤5cm was measured in all the 100x150 plots. The size classes were described using size class distribution, densities and their slopes. B. aegyptiaca density was influenced by land management regimes. Current crop fields registered high tree density (ha-1). Productivity and activity in B. aegyptiaca begins when individuals reach approximately ≤7cm Dbh. Full fruit production levels (mean: 12-12,288) are reached in B. aegyptiaca trees at ˂25 cm Dbh. Desert date trees in ≥10cm dbh class sequestered mean carbon of 5.22Mg C ha-1, those in 10-19 cm dbh class sequestered 63.16±66.8 Mg C ha-1, 30-39 cm dbh class sequestered 278.94±50.0Mg C ha1 and ˂50 cm dbh sequestered 1168.8±694.6Mg C ha-1. This study confirms that together with environmental factors, Land management regimes are the major factors in influencing productivity and stands management of B. aegyptiaca in Napak woodland. Since human impacts adversely affect desert date stands of ≥20cm Dbh classes, there should be fire exclusion or better fire management options to fully maintain productive stands of desert date, early dry season burning is recommended for fallow and productive stands to improve yields. Future in depth study on productivity and management practices of B. aegyptiaca should include young individuals (≥5cm) from the point of seed germination within the main land use types so as to clarify survival and mortality rates of both regenerating shoots and old individuals. Study on reproduction comparing the response to pollen from distant sources (probably ˂1km up to 10 km) is recommended.