Kinangop grasslands, Kenya

Site Details
Assessment Details

Site Overview


KBA status: confirmed

Rationale for qualifying as KBA: This site qualifies as a Key Biodiversity Area of international significance because it meets one or more previously established criteria and thresholds for identifying sites of biodiversity importance (including Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, and Key Biodiversity Areas) KBA identified in the process of compiling the CEPF Ecosystem Profile of the East Afromontane Hotspot. Species taxonomy and threat category was based on IUCN Red List 2010-4. The site holds a significant population of the following plant species which, although not yet Red-List-assessed at the global level, are thought likely to be categorised as globally threatened once assessed (thus meeting the KBA Vulnerability criterion), based on existing regional or national Red List assessments (species also considered as site-endemic are tagged with Irr1 [KBA Irreplaceability 1 criterion]): Asclepias alpestris, Asclepias edentata, Asclepias inaequalis, Brachystelma keniense, Crotalaria ukingensis (Irr1), Eriosema chrysadenium, Gutenbergia fruticosa, Impatiens cribbi, Lycopodium aberdaricum.

Global KBA criteria:
Year of assessment: 2011
National site name: Kinangop grasslands
Central coordinates: Lat: -0.65 Long: 36.56
System: Terrestrial
Altitude (m): 2,400 to 2,700
Area of KBA (ha): 72,367
Protected area coverage (%): 3

Text account


Year of compilation: 2001
Site description:

These montane grasslands lie on the Kinangop Plateau, a wide stretch of land bounded by the forests of the Aberdare mountains (IBA KE001) and Kikuyu Escarpment (KE004) to the east and south, and by a steep scarp dropping to the Rift Valley floor on the west. To the west and north, the IBA boundary follows the 2,400 m contour. Rainfall averages c.1,000 mm/year, but the southern part is wetter than the north, which lies in the rain shadow of the Aberdares. The landscape is generally flat, sloping gently upwards to the base of the Aberdare mountains, but dissected by valleys bearing streams that drain into the Malewa and Karati rivers (see Lake Naivasha, KE048). Originally, the entire plateau was covered with almost treeless, tussocky grassland, including many tussock bogs in the swampy valleys. Characteristic tussock grasses include Andropogon amethystinus, Cymbopogon nardus, Digitaria diagonalis, Eleusine jaegeri, Eragrostis botruodes, Hyparrhenia hirta, H. tamba and Pennisetum hohenackeri. Since the 1960s the area has been settled by the Kikuyu people, whose livelihood revolves around small-scale farming. Large areas of land have been ploughed for cultivation (mainly maize, wheat, cabbages and potatoes) or to remove the tussock grass species, which livestock find unpalatable. Woodlots of introduced trees, such as Eucalyptus globulus, Acacia mearnsii, Pinus radiata and Cupressus lusitanica, now dot the landscape. Many of the wetlands have been drained, directly or by planting water-thirsty exotic trees.

Summary of threats to biodiversity at KBA:

Kenya’s unique highland grasslands are not included in any protected areas, and are rapidly vanishing. The remaining grassland on the Kinangop Plateau is now mainly modified grazing land, sometimes in rotation with arable cropping. The ecological character of the plateau is changing remarkably fast. Destruction of indigenous forest on the Aberdare slopes, drainage of wetlands and afforestation with exotic trees has resulted in a warmer, drier climate, with less frequent frosts and less regular mist and rain. Less frequent frosts (and an unreliable milk market) has increased the attraction of crop cultivation rather than livestock rearing. A growing human population has put more pressure on the land, leading to smaller average land holdings (which tend to include proportionately less grassland) and higher stocking rates. In 2000, it was estimated that grassland covered just 50% of the plateau. In turn, only around 50% of this was tussock grassland, more than half of which occurred in patches too small to support territories of Macronyx sharpei. If present trends continue, it is estimated that within 10 years tussock grasslands will cover only about one-sixth of Kinangop, and all farms big enough to act as potential longclaw reserves will have been subdivided to smaller sizes. Macronyx sharpei seems able to coexist with livestock, provided that adequate tussock cover remains, but cannot survive in farmed fields: it requires grass tussocks for feeding, roosting and nesting. It is also severely affected by habitat fragmentation. Conservation of this IBA represents a major challenge. Further ecological and economic studies are urgently required to assess what land-use regimes are compatible with Macronyx sharpei conservation, and what economic opportunity costs these entail. Land should be purchased for a model Macronyx sharpei reserve that can fulfil an educational and demonstration function. Working with farmers’ cooperatives to improve milk processing and marketing opportunities would help to increase the economic returns from dairy farming. Fortunately, environmental awareness is growing in the area. A local conservation action group, ‘Friends of Kinangop Plateau’, now has active branches in three parts of the plateau. Parts of this IBA have now been well surveyed, but additional survey work is needed in the northern sector. There are reports of Macronyx sharpei at around 2,300 m near Lake Ol’Bolossat (c.18 km north-north-west of Wanjohi, at the IBA’s northern limit). If confirmed, these would make it appropriate to extend the northern boundary of the IBA. The presence of Cisticola aberdare at the base of the Aberdare mountains also requires confirmation.

Habitats


IUCN Habitat Coverage level Coverage % Habitat detail
14. Artificial - Terrestrial - 41-50% Arable land
4. Grassland - 41-50% Grassland - montane

Threats


Threat level 1 Threat level 2 Threat level 3 Timing Scope Severity Impact
1 Residential & commercial development 1.1 Housing & urban areas Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) Causing or likely to cause very rapid declines (>30% over 10 years or three generations; whichever is the longer) Very high
1 Residential & commercial development 1.2 Commercial & industrial areas Only in the future Affects the whole population (>90%) High
1 Residential & commercial development 1.3 Tourism & recreation areas Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) High
11 Climate change & severe weather 11.1 Habitat shifting & alteration Only in the future Affects the whole population (>90%) High
11 Climate change & severe weather 11.2 Droughts Only in the future Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) Medium
2 Agriculture & aquaculture 2.1 Annual & perennial non-timber crops 2.1.2 Small-holder farming Ongoing Affects the whole population (>90%) Causing or likely to cause very rapid declines (>30% over 10 years or three generations; whichever is the longer) Very high
2 Agriculture & aquaculture 2.2 Wood & pulp plantations 2.2.1 Small-holder plantations Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) Causing or likely to cause very rapid declines (>30% over 10 years or three generations; whichever is the longer) Very high
2 Agriculture & aquaculture 2.3 Livestock farming & ranching 2.3.2 Small-holder grazing, ranching or farming Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) Causing or likely to cause very rapid declines (>30% over 10 years or three generations; whichever is the longer) Very high
3 Energy production & mining 3.2 Mining & quarrying Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) High
3 Energy production & mining 3.3 Renewable energy Only in the future Affects the minority of the population (<50%) Medium
4 Transportation & service corridors 4.1 Roads & railroads Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) High
4 Transportation & service corridors 4.2 Utility & service lines Ongoing Affects the minority of the population (<50%) High
6 Human intrusions & disturbance 6.1 Recreational activities Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) High
6 Human intrusions & disturbance 6.3 Work & other activities Ongoing Affects the minority of the population (<50%) Causing or likely to cause negligible declines Low
7 Natural system modifications 7.3 Other ecosystem modifications Ongoing Affects the majority of the population (50-90%) High
8 Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases 8.1 Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases 8.1.1 Unspecified species Ongoing Affects the whole population (>90%) Causing or likely to cause very rapid declines (>30% over 10 years or three generations; whichever is the longer) Very high
9 Pollution 9.4 Garbage & solid waste Ongoing Affects the minority of the population (<50%) Medium

Recommended citation


Key Biodiversity Areas Partnership (2024) Key Biodiversity Areas factsheet: Kinangop grasslands. Extracted from the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas. Developed by the Key Biodiversity Areas Partnership: BirdLife International, IUCN, American Bird Conservancy, Amphibian Survival Alliance, Conservation International, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Global Environment Facility, Re:wild, NatureServe, Rainforest Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, World Wildlife Fund and Wildlife Conservation Society. Downloaded from https://keybiodiversityareas.org/ on 02/03/2024.