The coastal eco-region of Kenya, Africa, is known for high levels of endemism on the African continent for plant and other taxa like birds, butterflies, and amphibians. The continued management and survival of these forests has been through different means such as government protection, traditional management of sacred forests, and local community engagement. Forest-adjacent communities have always relied heavily on forest resources for their livelihood. Currently, these forests are facing an increasing pressure from local economic development and surrounding urban expansion. Therefore a pressing challenge is to conciliate sustainable forest management with community needs. In some forests, butterfly farming was introduced as a management strategy to address this challenge. Experience so far shows that butterfly farming has been a viable approach for reshaping the community’s relation to the forest, supporting conservation, improving livelihoods , and creating social enterprises.
Overall, knowledge about status and trends of biodiversity is the baseline for enhancing conservation strategies. Plant diversity is the crucial factor for the ecosystem productivity and services of the coastal forests. This affects the ecological processes and ecosystem services they provide. There is therefore need for an update on the plant species checklists, their values on the forest and uses by forest reliant communities.
Here we investigated the knowledge status on plant species diversity, distribution, and plant conservation status across coastal forests in Kenya. The occurrences of more than 3,000 species were recorded in 16 patches of coastal forests. Due to lack of data and variation in sampling methods, data of species richness are affected by major biases across the national forest parks of Arabuko Sokoke Forest, Shimba Hills and sacred sites. Thus, there is an urgent need to assess and improve the knowledge base of Kenyan coastal forests biodiversity through standardized field sampling. Such information is needed to better guide forest management, conservation policy and human interventions at both local and regional scales.
Key words: Plant species diversity, coastal forests, forest management, local community engagement, Kenya