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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 - October 2021

Project Overview:

5-093_Moinde_mammal team
Mammal research team climbing the hills of Mukogondo forest, Photo credit: Dr. Moinde
5-093_Moinde_car in flooded river
Challenges during reconnaissance surveys. Photo credit: Dr. Moinde
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.

January-March 2021 reporting period updates:
The comments and suggestions proposed in the publication manuscript are still being incorporated after sharing the results from the analysis of the climate change signals based on the rainfall observational and remotely sensed dataset. The publication manuscript will thereafter be shared with the team members for any additional input from the team. However, the climate
change component of the questionnaire is still being analyzed and a report shall be availed to members for discussion. The integration of the climate data with the other datasets in the ecological modelling however is still outstanding.

The draft manuscript titled ‘Diversity of Rickettsia in small wild mammals of Laikipia County, Kenya’ is in progress with feedback from various Co-authors being incorporated. The tick identification data is being analyzed and mapping will be done to establish distribution of the vectors of tick borne pathogens parasitizing small wild mammals in Laikipia. GIS model for spatial distribution of the small mammals with ticks will be useful in determining potential health risk of humans in different land use systems, and inform on future regional health policies in relation to control or eradication of new /re-emerging diseases as stipulated by the Kenya health sector strategic and investment plan.

Analyses on a manuscript examining the role of land-use, NDVI/rainfall and mammalian diversity on the prevalence of zoonotic disease (focusing on zoonotic rickettsia) are ongoing. The manuscript will examine and parametrize the interrelationships between climate (NDVI/rainfall/temperature), mammalian diversity and land-use on zoonotic rickettsia pathogen prevalence in small mammals and whether patterns that emerge have a strong link to flea and tick abundance in small mammals. The parameters obtained from these analyses particularly the influence of climate and land-use on the risk of zoonotic rickettsia will be used for building models to predict how future changes in land use and climate will impact on disease emergence and prevalence. This will play a role in informing policy makers on the potential mitigation measures to curb disease emergence in Laikipia and other similar ecosystems in the country. The major challenges experienced during this reporting period were illnesses that slowed down progress in data analysis.

Meetings with different PIs generating different aspects of the data particularly on current climate and climate change models for Laikipia are planned in the next quarter. This will enable the development of zoonotic disease risk sensitivity models for various climate-change and land-use change scenarios.

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