REFA in and around Arabuko Sokoke forest

Intact ecosystems provide important ecosystem functions, which are of high relevance for species-interactions, but also for the human being, such as pollination or pest control. Nature conservation focuses strongly on the maintenance of intact ecosystems (and thus ecosystem functions) for endangered animal and plant species, but also for the human being living in and depending from intact ecosystems. Most studies focusing on ecosystem health are mainly conducted based on specific species, but ecosystem functions are mostly neglected. The Eastern African coastal forest is home for various endangered and unique plant and animal species. The forest consists of at least three different forest types (Brachystegia, Cynometra and Mixed forest). The forest is surrounded by anthropogenic landscapes, such as agricultural fields (for subsistence agriculture) and tree plantations (with exotic tree species). Rapid Ecosystsem Function Assessment (REFA) is a standardized and cost-efficient technique to collect data on ecosystem functions in situ. A group of students of Technical University Munich Germany and Pwani University Kenya study a set of four ecosystem functions in the field (pollination, seed dispersal, predation, soil nutrition). Therese parameters were collected plot-wise (at 20 sites) in all three pristine forest types (Brachystegia, Cynometra, Mixed forest), in agricultural land and plantation. Furthermore, data were assessed along transects from the forest, transgressing the forest edge and ranging into agricultural land. The students were working on the following topics: (i) Spillover effects / edge effect along a gradient from pristine Mixed forest into agricultural fields; (ii) different functions taking place in different forest types (Brachystegia vs Cynometra vs Mixed forest); (iii) Forest vs agricultural fields (comparison of all ecosystem functions assessed) (Kenyan master student); and (iv) Pristine vs surrogate habitat (forest types vs plantation).