Land use and land cover changes in a sub-humid Montane forest in an arid setting: A case study of the Marsabit forest reserve in northern Kenya

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There have been drastic changes in land-use patterns in the Marsabit Forest Reserve (MFR) as a consequence of anthropogenic processes for livelihood improvement over time. The objective of this study was to assess the land-use and land-cover changes (LULCC), especially those related to the forest cover, in the MFR using multi-temporal Landsat images from Landsat 7 and 8 covering the period 1990 to 2017. Unsupervised and supervised classifications were carried out with the final classification done using the Maximum Likelihood Classifier for each period image to create six dominant land-use and land-cover classes (LULC) which included: shrubland, grassland, bare land, open forest, agriculture and settlement, closed forest, and wetland. The results showed that, between 1990 and 2010, the closed forest area had reduced from 19,599 to 9275 ha (−52.7%), open forest from 30,214 to 7345 ha (−75.7%), and shrubland from 83,288 to 65,212 ha (−21.7%). Over the same period there was, a corresponding increase in the grassland area from 35,233 to 56,066 ha (+58.7%), bare land from 19565 to 35,691 ha (+82.4%) and agriculture/settlement class from 12,842 to 24,072 ha (+87.5%). With the introduction of a forest moratorium illegalising consumptive forest use between 2010 and 2017, the closed forest area increased from 9275 to 12,133 ha (+30.8%), bare land from 35,691 to 42,275 ha (+15.6%) and shrubland 65,212 to 100, 452 ha (+35.1%), with a corresponding decrease in open forest area from 7345 to 1385 ha (−430%), grassland from 56,066 to 39,542 ha (−41.9%), and agriculture/settlement class from 24,072 to 7235 ha (−232.7%). The Focused group discussion (FGD) and Key informant interview (KII) respondents identified illegal logging, livestock incursion/foraging, inadequacies of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) in forest management, forest excisions, firewood collection and illegal settlements in the Marsabit National Reserve (MNR) as the main drivers of LULCC. The study proposes the implementation of the ten-year (2015–2025) Marsabit Forest Ecosystem Management Plan in managing the drivers of LULCC in a bid to safeguard the ecosystem services (ES) provided by the MFR.




Muhati, G. L., Olago, D., & Olaka, L. (2018). Land use and land cover changes in a sub-humid Montane forest in an arid setting: A case study of the Marsabit forest reserve in northern Kenya. Global Ecology and Conservation, 16.

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