Biomass Energy Resource of the Highland Bamboo (Yushania alpina) and Its Potential for Sustainable Exploitation in Southern Aberdares Forest
Katumbi, Ndirangu Monicah
Kinyanjui, Mwangi James
Mugo, Joseph Mware
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Yushania alpina is the only bamboo species native to Kenya and covers about 150,000 ha growing in pure or mixed stands in the montane forests. The Aberdare forest is one of the natural habitats for Y. alpine occupying an area of 6419 ha mainly in the water catchment areas. The growing human population and depletion of other forest resources have necessitated the exploration of Y. alpine as a source of energy. This paper assessed the quantity of Y. alpine available for biomass energy and its potential for sustainable exploitation. Plots were laid on area maps to cater for altitude and distance from farms. The study area was stratified into three altitudinal zones: A (2220 - 2330 m), B (2331 - 2440 m) and C (2441 - 2550 m). The initial sampling plot of 10 m × 10 m was located randomly 500 m from the edge of the forest while the subsequent plots were laid out systematically at intervals of 500 m. In each plot, a total enumeration and biomass estimation of bamboo clumps were done using Muchiri and Muga (2013)  method. Bamboo samples and those of commonly used biomass energy sources were analysed for calorific value using bomb calorimeter. In addition, data for quantities of biomass energy used by some local industries were used to estimate the amount of bamboo required. The mean stocking was 19,981 (20,000) culms ha−1, and varied significantly among altitude strata and distance from adjacent farms. The mean biomass density and energy content were 86 tons/ha and 380,893 Kca/ha respectively with the higher altitudinal stratum (zone C) having the highest means (114 tons/ha) while the lower stratum (zone A) had the lowest (65 tons/ha). The energy needed by sampled local industries was 416,276,266 Kcal per year against 2.4 billion Kcal available in the bamboo forest. This implies that the bamboo forest in its present stocking can provide biomass energy for these local industries for more than five years. With bamboo maturing with less than five years, the forest can sustainably provide the required energy while still providing its environmental services.