Can Ficus Sp. Forests Be Restored Through Vegetative Propagation?
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Gishwati forest lies within the Albertine Rift and contains great biodiversity. The forest, however, has been reduced in size because of post-genocide era habitat loss and agricultural expansion. Conservation efforts working to preserve the forest include a Rwandan NGO called Vision 2012, which planted approximately 400 Ficus sp. branch cuttings in summer 2011. Our goal was to assess the viability of these cuttings to see if vegetative propagation is a tool that can be used to reforest a corridor to connect forest fragments in western Rwanda. A corridor could greatly increase the biodiversity in Rwanda by allowing movement of the small chimpanzee population residing in Gishwati. During summer 2012, we located the Ficus sp. cuttings, mapped their spatial distribution using GPS and took measurements on height, DBH, and leave count. A total of 57.1% of the Ficus sp. that were originally planted survived the year and of those surviving, 90% contained at least 11 leaves per 25cm of height. A significant correlation between height of the individual and its leaf count was found, suggesting that the initial Ficus sp. cutting height may be a predictor of one-year survival probability. Our survivorship results support previous studies that have found survivorship from 0-77% depending on the Ficus species and the time of year the clippings were planted. Since 90% of the Ficus sp. were in fair condition and Ficus sp. is a common fall back food for chimpanzees in the Rwandan dry season, we conclude that Ficus sp. is a good candidate for corridor reforestation.
Michael Renner (Mentor) ; Keith Summerville (Mentor) ; Ben Beck (Mentor)