Behind the fog: Forest degradation despite logging bans in an East African cloud forest
Global Ecology and Conservation
Habitat destruction and deterioration are amongst the main drivers of biodiversity loss. Increasing demand for agricultural products, timber and charcoal has caused the rapid destruction of natural forests, especially in the tropics. The Taita Hills in southern Kenya are part of the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot and represent a highly diverse cloud forest ecosystem. However, the cloud forest suffers extremely from wood and timber exploitation and transformation into exotic tree
... o exotic tree plantations and agricultural fields. Existing conservation regulations and moratoriums aim to prevent further forest destruction. In this study, we analyzed land cover change and shifts in landscape configuration for a fraction of the Taita Hills, based on satellite imageries for the years 2003, 2011 and 2018. We found that the coverage of natural cloud forest further decreased between 2003 and 2018, despite the effort to conserve the remaining cloud forest patches and to reforest degraded areas by various conservation and management initiatives. In parallel, the proportion of exotic tree plantations and bushland strongly increased. Moreover, mean natural forest patch size decreased and the degree of interspersion with other land cover types increased notably. Logging bans for indigenous trees seem to have resulted in local opposition to the planting of indigenous trees and thereby hindered the recovering of the cloud forest. We suggest to enhance local awareness on the ecological value of the natural forest by community-based Conservation Forest Associations and to encourage the planting of indigenous tree species in farmer-owned woodlots. Besides, bottom-up management systems that allow for local participation in decision-making and benefit-sharing related to forest resources would be a way forward to achieve the sustainable use and conservation of the last remaining natural forest patches in the Taita Hills.