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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Remote sensing and GIS mapping for land use changes in Laikipia ecosystem, Kenya: a tool to explore patterns of biodiversity and emergence of vector-borne zoonoses and enhance environmental management and community health

PI: Nancy Moinde ( Institute of Primate Research-National Museums of Kenya
U.S. Partner: Peter Leimbruger, Smithsonian Institution
Project Dates: November 2016-November 2019

Project Overview:

Laikipia County in central Kenya supports one of the highest levels of mammalian diversity in East Africa. The semi-arid environment is changing rapidly due to land use changes, and climatic changes are projected to alter ecosystem resilience. These anthropogenic changes can alter the dynamics of zoonotic infectious diseases in wooded and bushland fringes of semi-arid ecosystems. Vector-borne diseases carried by vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, and sand flies are known for their rapid response to environmental modifications and climate change. In this project, the team will focus on the interrelationships between climate change, land use patterns and their impacts on large mammal distribution, and disease vector diversity. They will also study how these in turn influence human adaptation and ecosystem resilience to ecological change. Specifically, they will use the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR)-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to examine the relationship between inter-annual NDVI parameters and species richness of large mammals and ticks and sand flies as disease vectors. They will also examine primary productivity of current land use systems within current climate patterns and its relationship to mammals and vegetation cover. Lastly, they will examine variation in host feeding preferences of zoophilic mosquitoes, sand flies, and ticks from different land use systems and climatic zones of Laikipia.

The use of remote sensed data to represent environmental factors influencing species richness in different ecosystems in Laikipia will provide valuable knowledge on the spatial variability of species richness and ecological resilience of different land use systems. Together with disease vector sampling and molecular analysis of vector feeding preferences, this project will also address vector-borne disease dynamics in Laikipia.

Summary of Recent Activities

In this reporting period, the PEER team conducted a GIS workshop training entitled  the “Spatial Analysis Technical Workshop for Biodiversity Conservation and Monitoring." This was co-hosted by the Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya and Smithsonian Institute, USA. The 10-day workshop was hosted at the Mpala Research Centre (MRC) in Laikipia County, an ideal location because it’s within their projects’ area of interest. This specialized GIS workshop was conducted by a team of researchers from Smithsonian Conservation department, Dr. Jared Stabach, Dr. Grant Connette and Dr. Ramiro Crego and Mr. Harry Wells (student trainee). Ten participants including PEER local collaborators and student trainees from KWS, IPR and UoN were selected for the training. Other participants were from Laikipia conservancies and Kenya wildlife trust in Maasai Mara. The workshop is of immediate importance to our PEER project main objective (GIS mapping for land use changes and biodiversity) as it will impart new skills in utilising GIS tool for spatial analysis.

Spatial analysis variation in respect to land use and climate change and patterns of zoonotic diseases are one of the core objectives of this project. This was one of the collaborative activities with the projects USG partners at the Smithsonian Institute. Drs. Gilbert Ouma and Wilson Gitau are leading the Climate change team in mining climate data from various part of Laikipia County and from the Center of Training and Integrative Research in ASAL Development (CETRAD). From the list of 141 rainfall stations available in the CETRAD database, several rainfall stations have been identified for use in the current project and data already acquired. The temperature data is still outstanding.

The PEER team has established linkages with community leaders and relevant government agencies in Laikipia county. These community and government networks will provide an essential fabric for the uptake and implementation of our research output and recommendations for climate change adaptation and climate disaster preparedness. The training of Harry Wells on geo-spatial analysis on Laikipia vegetation trends due to climatic and anthropogenic drivers inform on ecological restoration planning. The analysis has Implications for ‘Climate- Smart’ ecological restoration in most needed pastoral grazing areas that have experienced less positive precipitation trends in recent years.

In the next 3-6 months, the PEER team will conduct climate change questionnaire for the purpose of investigating how climate change has had an impact on the people's activities and health. They will also carry out a small mammal survey to be conducted during the dry season and lastly, they will host a workshop to report findings with the PEER community and project stakeholders

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