Woody species diversity and composition on grazing fields among pastoral communities in South-western Uganda
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Little is known about the contribution of grazing landscapes to biodiversity conservation. This study was conducted in grazing fields within the villages of sub-counties that are predominantly occupied by cattle keepers in Isingiro and Kiruhura Districts in South-Western Uganda. The study assessed woody species diversity and composition within grazing fields among pastoral communities, and determined the benefits households derive from woody species on grazing fields. Data on woody species diversity and composition were collected from 62 plots each measuring 50 × 50 m. All Woody species encountered with diameter at breast height of ≥5cm were enumerated, identified and recorded in a data collection form. Data on benefits derived from woody species was collected by requesting each of the selected respondents to state the benefits they derive from woody plant species on their grazing fields. The data on woody species diversity and composition were analyzed using R package BiodiversityR while data on benefits was analyzed using SPSS. Results from the study revealed that Isingiro District had significantly higher richness and diversity of woody plant species than Kiruhura District. The dominant woody species recorded across the two Districts were Acacia gerrardii, A. sieberiana, A. abyssinica, A. hockii, Grewia mollis, Rhus natalensis and Albizia coriaria. The NMDS ordination showed that the species composition of Isingiro District was different from that of Kiruhura District. SIMPER analysis showed that the woody plant species which contributed to differences in species composition between Isingiro and Kiruhura Districts were mainly A. gerrardii, A. hockii, A. sieberiana, Albizia coriaria, Grewia mollis, Dononaea angustifolia and Albizia adianthifolia. The benefits derived from woody species across the two Districts ranked in order were provision of animal shade (98%), wood fuel (95%), construction materials (94%), fodder (77%), human and animal medicine (42%), staking materials (19%), crafts (13%) and food (7%). The study concluded that grazing lands have a high potential for conserving biodiversity through harboring a diversity of woody plant species that supply a wide range of ecosystem services. If effective management is not implemented, the woody plant species in grazing areas are likely to continue being threatened by increasing demands for mainly wood fuel.