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REPORT: Changes in tree reproductive phenology: causes and implications in and around Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda

The diversity in tropical rain forests means that they can provide a diversity of products and services that in turn contribute to the livelihoods of many people in the developing world. Despite their economic and ecological importance, tropical forests are threatened by human degradation and climate change. It is believed that these human-induced changes threaten the survival of forest species because they disrupt ecological processes that are important in maintaining viable populations. Regardless of the cause and extent of this change, the observed reduction in proportion of fruiting trees is likely to have profound effects on the dynamics of the forest in relation to regeneration potential as well as increased cases of human-wildlife conflict due to reduced food (fruit) availability. The increased human-wildlife conflict is likely to affect food security and increase local community animosity to wildlife conservation. For instance, over the past five years Budongo Conservation Field Station has received complaints from local communities regarding chimpanzees raiding maize crops. In the past, chimpanzees occasionally raided home gardens for fruits (mangoes and pawpaws) and farmers were quite tolerant of this. However, the recent shift to raiding maize, a major food crop for the farmers, has created animosity.

This study, Changes in tree reproductive phenology: causes and implications in and around Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda, was aimed at gaining a better understanding of the causes and implications in tree fruiting phenology in Budongo Forest and the implications on local communities around the forest. Budongo Forest Reserve has experienced a decline in the number of fruiting trees. We hypothesized that climatic change and/or changes in pollinator populations could be the cause of reduced tree fruiting. Tree phenology was monitored by conducting monthly visits to marked trees to record whet her the tree was flowering or fruiting. Primate foraging patterns were determined by observing habituated primate groups to record their dietary composition. Pollinator assemblage was assessed by using pan-traps hung in selected tree species. Surveys were conducted among forest edge communities to assess the current spatial and temporal crop raiding patterns in relation to past crop raiding patterns.

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This project and publication has been produced as part of the START call for research on the theme of ‘Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security’ in Africa, with an emphasis on the sustainability of ecosystem services in Africa. Objectives of this call are to commission high quality, independent, policy-relevant and credible research to support policy making for sustainable development in the region, to build the capacities of regional research partners to conduct high level research and to create a platform for knowledge sharing at the regional level. The funding has been provided by US National Science Foundation, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and CDKN.

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Research call information: Regional Research Call – Africa

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