The woody vegetation in arid and semi-arid area is of immense importance performing a myriad of ecosystem services and providing a wide array of goods. However, the woody vegetation is threatened by both natural and anthropogenic activities at global, national and local levels. In Kerio Valley, the threat is manifested in the form of overexploitation for fuel wood and land-use change due to mining activities. This study aimed to assess the effects of mining activities on the composition, diversity and local utilization of woody vegetation in Kerio valley, located in Baringo County. The composition of woody vegetation, its abundance and diversity was compared between rehabilitated mined sites and sites that had not experienced human disturbance. The study was conducted between the months of October 2014 and May 2015 and six transects were established within two blocks separated by Kerio river. Each transect contained five plots measuring 20m by 20m. In each of the plots, data was collected on woody tree growth characteristics, seedling regeneration, tree form quality and soil phyto-sociological parameters. Indigenous knowledge on usage of the woody vegetation was captured using a questionnaire. Thirteen woody vegetation species were encountered in the rehabilitated mined sites with Ficus sycomorus being the dominant (22.1%) and Teclea nobilis the least dominant species (1.0%). Twenty two species were encountered in undisturbed sites with Ficus sycomorus as the dominant (15.5%) and Euclea divinorum being the least dominant (0.7%). Woody vegetation diversity was higher in undisturbed site than in the rehabilitated mined site. However, this variability in species diversity was not significant (T-test, =D.F=1 P=0.767). Among the phyto-sociological parameters measured, there was significant difference in the mean soil temperature (F2, 7. =9.08, P=0.011), pH (F2, 7. =109.88, P<0.01), and soil nutrients (F2, 7. = P<0.05) between the three sites (rehabilitated mined, undisturbed and recently mined). Majority of the respondent identified Combretum molle as the most common woody vegetation while Balanites aegyptiaca was noted as the woody vegetation commonly used but highly threatened by mining activities. Rehabilitating mined sites can bring back species diversity, however what is not clear is whether ecosystem functions are restored. Indigenous uses of woody trees necessitate the need for reforestation of mined sites.

Background to the study
Arid and semi-arid environments (ASALs) are areas that receive annual rainfall of between 300- 500mm and they account for 18.8% of the total land area of the world and are diverse in their soils, fauna, flora, land forms, human activities and water balance (UNEP, 2006). Much of the water it receives from precipitation is lost through evapotranspiration and the vegetation cover is sparse and woody species is low (Thom, 1983). In Africa, ASALs accounts for 46.1% of the total area while in Kenya it covers 80% of the total area (UNEP, 2006). The ASALs in Kenya are concentrated in 19 of the 47 Counties (GOK, 2009). The deciduous woodland occurs throughout the Kenya ASALs and is dominated by Acacia tortilis with other notable species being Hyphaene ventricosa, Salvadora persica, Acacia nubica on the Northwest and northern Kenya and Commiphora and Acacias in the southern parts. (Kigomo, 2001). These areas provide support to about 30 % of the total population in Kenya with the main economic activities being pastrolism and agro-pastrolism (Nangulu, 2001). However, degradation in ASAL areas is a common phenomenon driven by pressures associated with increasing human populations which has resulted in decline in vegetation cover and quality over time (Mengich. et al., 2013).

The woody vegetation in ASALs is of immense importance performing a myriad of ecosystem services and providing a wide array of goods. They are useful particularly in terms of herbages for livestock, energy provision and also as herbal sources (Maitima, 2009). For example Assessing their distribution and composition is important for management as this can provide information necessary for plans on harvesting, conservation, identification of presence of endangered or rare species and sites with high or low species richness (Newton, 2009). In addition the number of trees and shrubs that can tolerate drought stress has declined due to factors such as frequent fire outbreaks, climate change, clearing of land for human settlement and mining activities can be identified (Omambia et al., 2009). Soil microorganisms in ASAL areas are paramount in the biogeochemical cycling of both organic and inorganic nutrients in the soil and maintenance of soil quality (Jeffries et al., 2003).

However mining causes chemical, physical and microbiological changes in soil properties (Ghose et al., 2004). Therefore comparing soil characteristics in rehabilitated and undisturbed mining sites was necessary for soil and woody vegetation conservation. Soil fertility and good land productivity is as a result of soil nutrients and in most ASAL areas the soils are deficient of nitrogen and phosphorous (Hancock et al., 2006).

Understanding the local uses of trees is important to appreciate their usage and assist in policy making a measure of conservation (Johansson and Svensson, 2002). Plants are exploited as life supporting commodities and sources of food in developing countries and thus providing high level of nutrition to mankind aside from animal feed, construction materials as poles, fitos and for fencing (Aberoumand and Deokule, 2010). According to (Akubuiro et al., 2007), trees are an indispensable constituent of human diet that serve in supplying the body with certain hormone precursors, minerals and vitamins in addition to energy and proteins. This is what most of the trees have and thus showing their importance in the society and even in the wild. According to (Sundriyal, 2001) the edible plants with high diversity are distributed widely in mountain forests; they serve as medicine for domestic and commercial purposes and valuable sources of food. However, trees provide numerous benefits that can improve environmental quality and human health (Kalacska et al., 2005). These benefits include improvements in air and water quality, building energy conservation, cooler air temperatures, reductions in ultraviolet radiation, and many other environmental and social benefits (Kangalawe et al., 2008).

Statement of the Problem.
Arid and semi-arid areas in Kenya are associated with low development indicators and with high incidence of poverty. It is estimated that more than 60% of its population live below poverty line (UNEP, 2006). The residents of Kerio Valley are faced with high incidence of poverty caused by conflicts over resources, harsh climatic conditions such as low and unreliable rainfalls, frequent droughts and fragile ecosystem resulting in low and declining land productivity. People in these areas live in tough and inhospitable environments and face several constraints and uncertainties in meeting their day to day livelihood needs, however this area is rich in minerals (flourites) used to manufacture ornamentals. This led to establishment of Kenya Flourspar Company (KFC) in 1971 after the discovery of the mineral in 1967. As a result large areas of the valley have been

exposed through activities of mining, leading to loss of vegetation. Extensive areas have been cleared of vegetation to create areas where mining activities are carried out. This has had devastating effects on landscapes leading to unavailability of vegetation for livestock, bio-fuel sources and sources of herbal medicine. Mining has led to changes in soil composition leading to difficulties in vegetation re-establishment. However, there has been no prior documentation on effects of mining activities on woody vegetation diversity, composition and local uses thus the need for this study.

Objectives of the Study
Broad objective
To provide baseline information on ecosystem health status in reference to woody vegetation and its local utilization which can be used by the natural resources managers at County, National levels as well as development partners to inform rehabilitation and management of ASALs woody vegetation in Baringo and Keiyo- Marakwet counties.

Specific objectives
i. To determine the composition of woody vegetation in Kerio Valley

ii. To compare woody vegetation diversity in rehabilitated mined sites and undisturbed sites

iii. To compare soil characteristics in rehabilitated mined sites and undisturbed sites

iv. To assess the levels of uses and utilization preferences of woody vegetation in Kerio valley

Null hypothesis
i. Ho: There is no difference in species diversity and richness between rehabilitated mined sites and undisturbed sites

ii. Ho: There is no difference in soil characteristics between rehabilitated mined sites and undisturbed sites

Research questions
i. What is the abundance and composition of trees species in Kerio Valley?

ii. What is the extent of local uses of woody vegetation in Kerio Valley?

Justification of the Study
A management strategy of tree resource in ASALs of Kerio valley is necessary in providing information on forest ecology, conservation, management and providing an insight in trees dynamic processes enabling species regenerational characteristics and identification of presence of rare or threatened species. However Kerio Valley is a clear representation of ASAL areas where mining is evident and as a form of disturbance to woody vegetation. This therefore influenced the choice of the study area. A study relating growth parameters such as composition, height, DBH, soil characteristics and local uses had not been conducted and implemented in ASALs of Kerio valley for woody vegetation. Due to mining activities in the area, soil erosion and decline in land productivity is on the rise, leading to loss of woody vegetation. Such similar scenarios have often prompted institutions such as Kenya Forest Research Institutes to conduct several studies in areas such as Kitui, Baringo and Coastal regions to solve both environmental and livelihood problems. The findings of this study are therefore imperative for sustainable management and development of a conservation plan (Millennium Development Goals) by the stakeholders due to the reported decline in tree conservation and interventions in ASAL areas especially of Kerio valley of Baringo and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties. The results are useful in ASALs of Kerio valley, the country and beyond where the same problems are being experienced. This is in accordance with the Kenya’s vision 2030, to eradicate poverty under the economic pillar which is the major cause of reduced forest cover by fostering sustainable use of natural resources. In addition to increasing the forest cover from the current 5.9% as per the statistics released in 2012 by Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

Scope of the Study
The study was conducted in Soy and Chemoibon locations of soy division in Elgeyo-marakwet County, North rift Kenya. Composition and diversity of woody vegetation which is characterized by a high exploitation for charcoal and other uses was assessed. People living in the study area and areas adjacent were interviewed. Soil characteristics studies were limited to the plots falling under the undisturbed areas and those under rehabilitated mining sites.

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