The influence of land cover change on woody floristics in West Bugwe Central Forest Reserve,Uganda
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Forests play important roles in conserving biodiversity because they provide habitats to almost half of the terrestrial plant and animal species. However, forests are disappearing due to land cover conversions, and this causes species extinctions. Knowledge of how land cover change influences woody species composition and diversity is vital for designing the appropriate restoration and other management strategies. This study determined the influence of land cover change on woody species composition and diversity in West Bugwe Central Forest Reserve (WBCFR) in eastern Uganda. Remote sensing and Geohraphic Information Science (GIS) techniques were used to map and quantify the land cover change in WBCFR for the period 1986-2016. A household survey, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions were employed to determine the drivers of land cover change. Field measurements were used to determine woody species composition and diversity in the forest, shrubland, and grassland. The time series analysis revealed a persistent decline in the extent of the forest at an average rate of 1.27 % per year and an increase in shrubland at an average rate of 1.55% per year. Woody species richness ranged from 53, 23 to 9 species in the forest, shrubland, and grassland, respectively. The average number of stems encountered per hectare was 397. Fuelwood extraction and poverty are the major drivers of land cover change in WBCFR. West Bugwe Central Forest Reserve has experienced forest conversion to other land covers with much of the forest transitioning into shrubland and grassland due to anthropogenic factors. The transition of WBCFR into shrubland and grassland has impacted woody species composition and diversity in WBCFR.