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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: December 2016 - March 2020

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 completion of the dry season small mammal surveys took place. A total 14 sites (including game ranches, livestock ranches, forests or community areas), which represented seven different land use type each with two replicates were sample during this period for three days each.

Traps (Shermans, tomahawks, pitfalls & snap) were set for a total 25 nights in different land uses and over 250 individuals of small mammals were trapped. Blood, hair, tissue, and ecto-parasites (ticks, fleas & lice) were collected from the trapped individuals. Where unique specimens were trapped, we collected a museum specimen sample. The small mammal data was captured using both ODK and paper and the data is completely entered in excel file and we are in the process of screening it for analysis as well as preparing for laboratory analysis for the zoonosis component.

Analysis of the gauged rainfall observations is at an advanced level. The results from this analysis will be compared with the responds from the questionnaire. Finally, a research manuscript will be drafted and submitted for publication from this comparison. The screening and normalization of the small mammal survey data sets for 2018 and 2019 was completed. The responses from the climate change questionnaire (CCQ) administered earlier this year were screened and the dataset is currently being normalized. At least half of the more than 400 questionnaires have already been normalized. Both the small mammal and the CCQ dataset will shared with the ecological modelling team which will involve the our Smithsonian partners and Harry Wells NDVI and spatial analysis data sets.

A meeting in Nairobi is scheduled in Nairobi in which Jared Stabach and Harry Wells will attend to initiate design of the ecological modelling analysis discussions with the PEER team members.

From the Zoonosis desk, the following have been achieved during the last quarter: i) A tick expert was consulted to identify the diversity of tick sampled during the small mammal surveys carried out in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Identification of about 1000 ticks from about 250 wild small mammals. There were 3 species of ticks identified morphologically; Ornithodorus spp, Haemaphysalis spp, Hyalomma spp, ii) Screening for Anaplasma and Rickettsia using PCR-HRM. 95 blood samples collected on FTA filter papers from different wild small mammals were screened.

Data analysis is scheduled to be taking place in the next quarter. Their Smithsonian partner,. Jared Stabach is also scheduled to meet with project members and Harry Wells to help initiate and facilitate the ecological modelling process for the analytical stage of the project

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