Forest recovery in formerly encroached areas of Mabira Tropical Forest Reserve
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Over the last 50 years, large areas of Uganda’s Forest Reserves have been lost to encroachers. For the last two decades, the Government of Uganda through National Forestry Authority embarked on efforts of relocating encroachers to allow forests to regenerate although other encroached areas have been allocated to enrichment planting. However, what is not known is whether these forest areas where encroachers have been removed can recover naturally without deliberate intervention. This study was therefore designed to provide insights into the ability of formerly encroached areas to naturally regenerate. To do this, aboveground vegetation was sampled in 60 10x30m plots randomly distributed in the formerly encroached areas (5 years after abandonment) and compared to in 30 10x30m plots in intact forest areas in Mabira Central Forest Reserve Additionally, the viability and composition of soil seed bank in the formerly encroached and intact forest areas was determined to assess the potential for forest regeneration through underground seed source. A total of sixty-six plant species was observed in the total sample of the above ground vegetation. The formerly encroached area was species rich with 60 plant species compared to intact forest area which had 44 plant species. Only six tree species identified in the intact forest area were absent from the formerly encroached forest area. Therefore, the similarity between the intact and formerly encroached forest area was high. From the soil seed bank experiment, out of the 39 plant species germinated from the soil seed bank samples, only one species was absent in the formerly encroached area but present in the intact forest area. The study further revealed quite a larger fraction of shade tolerant species in the formerly encroached forest area. These results therefore suggest that the formerly encroached forest area is on the right path to recovery and there is a possibility of encroached forest areas in Mabira Central Forest Reserve to recover through natural means.