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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 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

Dr. Moinde and her project team have completed the first year of their PEER project. During this year, many meetings were conducted to bring the partners and other stakeholders together. Two stakeholder workshops were planned including a stake-holders workshop to introduce the project to stakeholders and to identify areas of complementarity and synergy and a community leader’s buy-in workshop to prepare the ground for sampling and questionnaire administration. All these workshops have been accomplished to date as planned.

In October 2017 a community leader’s buy-in workshop was held at Impala Ranch at Laikipia. The purpose of this meeting is to ensure that the community leaders understand what the project is all about, the importance to their communities and the uptake of the research findings at the end of the project. This was accomplished through presentations by co investigators on different aspects of the project followed by question and discussion session. A total 22 people from 7 local communities took part in the community leader buy in meeting. There was interest from community leaders on climate predictions and issues to do with climate change. The communities promised to work together and requested for any feedback from this study as the findings will have implications for their adaptation to climate change.

The team conducted their first stakeholders’ workshop at Mpala Ranch in January 2017. The goal of the workshop was to introduce PEER project to the stakeholders and to identify stakeholders and areas for synergy and complementation. The other goal of the workshop was to identify research areas for collaboration and sharing of data during project implementation. During the workshop, the Laikipia County Director of Meteorology informed the participants that the county has a network of 21 stations, most of which are owned and operated by the private sector. To facilitate access and use of the dataset from the 21 observation stations, the PEER team needs to prepare a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which clearly spells out the terms of engagement. The coordinator for the National Drought Monitoring Authority (NDMA) for the Laikipia County also informed the participants that NDMA is mainly involved in coordinating the multi-sectoral groups that deal with drought risk management. The PEER team was informed that NDMA has enumerators at the ward level that are continuously monitoring and gathering information which facilitate the production of the monthly bulletin by NDMA and that NDMA can provide PEER information that they are already collecting from communities to avoid duplication in information gathering. NDMA would be interested in data on diseases that are associated with drought that will be generated by the PEER project in future.

In the coming year, the Pi and her team plan to carry out the following activities
• To conduct small mammal distribution and abundance in different land-use systems of Laikipia as well as any discernable climatic zones in Laikipia County. This activities is planned for the dry season month
• Engage Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS) on ways sharing their long term data on large mammal counts for Laikipia County. DRSRS has country wide data on large mammal abundance and distribution for the last 40 years.
• The climate change team from UoN plan to obtain rainfall station data for several stations in Laikipia County. This data will be used for 1. Identification of homogeneous climate zones depending on rainfall seasonally and amount. This information will be useful in planning the data collection design for mammal diversity and zoonotic disease surveys as well as in selecting locations to conduct climate change and adaptation in Laikipia. 2. Validation of satellite derived climate metrics to enable evaluation of climate trends for Laikipia county The PEER team and the Laikipia County Meteorological Department, are in process of developing a MoU that sufficiently covers areas of collaboration and data sharing activities in order to meet both organizational aims and objectives on climate data.
• Protocol optimization and validation of PCR protocols for identification of ticks and tick borne pathogens using single-blind experiments to identify tick samples obtained from large mammals by our partners in the KWS forensic and genetics laboratory. We have been able to identify various tick samples based on PCR amplification with specific ITS-2 primers. Meanwhile we have ordered primers for zoonotic bacterial and protozoan pathogens for screening of zoonotic agents from field samples.

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