Monday, October 25, 2010

Together for biodiversity: A project in Uganda and Kenya

Scientists from the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences working in Kenya and Uganda are about to conclude an international project realized by the Biodiversity Monitoring Transect Analysis in Africa (BIOTA). Since 2001, the research network has been analyzing changes to African species diversity.

The Kakamega Rainforest at sunrise, Kenya, Photo: (cc) wiki user Melanie Szirony
The Kakamega Rainforest at sunrise, Kenya, Photo: (cc) wiki user Melanie Szirony
The effects of fragmentation, human use and disturbances have been studied in three major forests in East Africa: the Kakamega Forest in western Kenya, one of the most densely populated rural regions in the world, as well as two lowland forests in Uganda, the Mabira Forest on Lake Victoria and the Budongo Forest on Lake Albert.

Gertrud Schaab from Karlsruhe University’s Department for Geomatics led the subproject E02, representing the only university for applied sciences in the BIOTA research network.
An atlas documenting 100 years in the forest
Remote sensing, the analysis of satellite imagery, historical aerial photographs and old maps enabled the scientists to observe changes in forest coverage over the last 100 years and classify the forests by type. The changes were documented in an atlas given to the responsible parties in Kenya and Uganda. Together with that from other project partners, the data provides the foundation for mapping biodiversity changes.
The Kakamega Forest was evaluated by high-resolution satellite images to develop scenarios for the future livelihood of the rural population. As a service to the project partners, a Geographic Information System (GIS) will be built with an online geo-data catalogue with extensive data on the studied areas and individual countries, already containing 500 spatial data sets as well as 55 ready-made cards. For the GIS, a simplified tool was developed to encourage those unfamiliar with the technology to include the spatial information in their analysis and work.
Biodiversity Information Center
The University of Karlsruhe BIOTA group also contributed to the formation of a Biodiversity Information Center (BIC) in Kakamega. The construction of a special data catalogue, support in the planning of additional forest management offices and a new information center were elements of the third and final phase of the project, in which local project partners have been brought in to independently continue the work begun by BIOTA.

“With the BIOTA East Africa Atlas, the construction of a Geo Information System and a Biodiversity Information Center,” explains Gertrud Schaab, “we can have an international and interdisciplinary network with local partners to document changes in the forest regions, and hopefully increase the understanding of vulnerable rainforest ecosystems. With this, a more sustainable management of these areas is possible, hopefully contributing to the biodiversity of East Africa.”

Additionally, fourteen Karlsruhe students are working on their thesis as part of the project and another three their doctorates, combining their practical knowledge with intercultural experiences.

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