Growth response of woody species to elephant foraging in Mwea National Reserve, Kenya
Chira, Robert M
Kinyamario, J I
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The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is known to greatly affect the structure and dynamics of vegetation. In Mwea National Reserve, elephants foraged mainly on Acacia ataxacantha and Grewia bicolor out of the five most preferred woody species. However, out of the five preferred woody species, only Grewia virosa and G. bicolor showed a positive association between their fresh use and past elephant use. All the five selected woody species showed high coppicing response after foraging, with the highest coppice growth rates recorded for Acacia brevispica and lowest for Grewia tembensis. The mean heights of woody species utilized by elephants were highest for A. brevispica and lowest for G. bicolor. The mean heights of coppices emerging after utilization by elephants were not significantly different for A. ataxacantha but were significantly shorter in the rest of the foraged species. Elephants avoided the coppices of many other woody species notably C. africana, A. tortilis, A. mellifera, Combretum aculeatum among others in the reserve. The objective of this study was to understand the capacity of woody species to recover after utilization by elephants and feeding response of elephants to new woody species re-growth; a cycle that would define the dynamics of food resources and elephant population within the reserve.