Hirola Conservation Programme:

saving the world's most endangered antelope

Promotes the conservation of the hirola antelope and its fragile habitat in partnership with communities in eastern Kenya.

Monday, 03 December 2018 06:33

Seedbank Study

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The world over, billions of acres of arid and semi-arid lands play host to plants that produce dormant seeds. This seed dormancy allows the plants to have delayed germination until such a time that there are environmental conditions that encourage seedling growth. Most of these dormant seeds collect within the soils creating seedbanks that offer an invaluable resource for the renaissance of native plants post disturbance. Therefore, these seeds’ germination helps us better understand the soil seed bank dynamics which allows us to appropriately select the right seed mixes for restoration and estimate the restoration aptitude contained within the existing soil seedbanks.

Our work is therefore focusing on the Hirola’s natural rangelands within Fafi and Ijara sub counties of Garissa County, Kenya. These areas are characterized as ASAL areas containing vast areas of native shrubs and trees. Native grasses and other herbaceous plants also add diversity to these lands but are overshadowed by introduced invasive species such as the Prosopis juliflora species and Acacia reficiens. With this in mind, it is important for us to maintain a healthy diversity of native grasses and herbaceous plants as the plants provide forage for both wildlife and livestock as well as habitat for wildlife; and can also prevent establishment of nonnative plants.

In order to do deter the dominance of these invasive species, HCP has embarked on habitat restoration project and such an active restoration project necessitates prior information on the soil seedbank and seed germination so as to inform effective decision making when coming up with restoration procedures.

 Our research seeks examine the soil seedbank composition of four different soil types within three hirola core areas where the proposed islands are being set up. Our main aim of this research is to explore the influence of edaphic factors in the growth of grass seedlings within these core areas. The soil samples were collected using a soil auger with 5cm diameter to a depth of 10cm. the soil samples were then transported to an offsite uncontrolled greenhouse that was set up at the Fafi girls’ secondary school in Bura.

Once at the greenhouse Plastic germination trays and filled with 1cm of soil from a sample. We have a total of 44 trays with each soil type having 11 replications. These trays are watered daily by one of our research assistants in the field. Once a week, we identify all the newly emerged seedlings will and mark them using toothpicks. We try our level best to identify Seedlings soonest possible and once identified, we remove them from the trays to prevent contamination by self-seeding.  The Unidentified seedlings are left to mature for later identification.

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