Monitoring vegetation dynamics and land cover change in Kenya is a key information layer for the sustainable management of natural resources and biodiversity conservation. However, accurate seasonal vegetation status and long term land cover change data valid at the regional and country level are hard to obtain or do not exist. This study starts by describing the various ecological regions of Kenya and the associated rainfall and land cover patterns of each ecological zone. Seasonal composite images derived from low resolution remote sensing data are processed in order to characterize by eco-region and generalized land cover type the inter-annual variability of the vegetation cycle, including the start-, mid- and end of the growing season. The seasonal vegetation variability is analyzed and put in perspective to the rainfall patterns over the period. A map of the inter-annual variability is produced, highlighting the areas mostly affected. Furthermore, detailed land cover changes for the last twenty years are assessed and quantified for the country by applying a systematic sampling of high resolution satellite imagery. Statistical estimates of land cover change are produced for six broad classes for the years 1990, 2000 and 2010. Figures of change for Kenya are presented and put in perspective to the low resolution time series. Results highlight information on land cover change processes such as vegetation dynamics and deforestation. These are discussed within the context of the causes of changes to the natural ecosystem - their potential impact on land availability for human activities such as agriculture and tree cutting for timber and fire wood production on the one side and habitat and biodiversity conservation on the other side. Finally, biodiversity and habitat value, ecosystems and threats, are analyzed for Kenya’s conservation and protected areas so as to identify the status of and pressures on the countries protected areas. Six indicators of species irreplaceability, habitat irreplaceability, and the level of perceived threat to a protected area’s habitat and species from agriculture and population are analyzed. Results are presented at the protected area scale and compared with the other protected areas in the country and eco-regions. In addition, high resolution satellite images taken over conservation areas are exploited for assessing land cover changes inside protected areas and in the surrounding 20km buffer zone. The results show the importance and effectiveness of conservation areas for reducing the loss of natural vegetation and hence protecting the habitat and biodiversity.
Kenya: a natural outlook Geo-Environmental resources, hazards p. 133-163 vol. 16