Remote sensing

Remote sensing to monitor and study ecosystem dynamics and degradation in the Masai Mara

Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity Group, Department of Bioscience, Science and Technology, Aarhus University

Land use and land cover status and changes will be mapped and integrated with the ecological studies so as to analyze the role of the landscape components such as vegetation structure and dynamics, landscape connectors and patchiness, surface hydrology etc.

The results from the monitoring will allow us to expand the results from the scale of ecological investigations to the scale of the full extent of the Masai Mara area. This will be important in order to bring the ecological results into a context with other data such as socio-economic data on the local population, tourist activities etc. This will then provide the basis for identifying analyzing and modeling the potentials and clashes between conservation and development in a geospatial context.

Another important function of the landscape monitoring will be as a tool for communication with local pastoralists, regional political bodies, education activities etc. This may be supported with the aid of maps that are either printed or as interactive digital maps.

Hence, a remote sensing monitoring scheme will be established which will include acquisition of multitemporal satellite images and airborne LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) scanning.

The satellite imagery will provide basic information about land cover, and it is the intention to map this over time so as to supply a basis for analyzing the landscape dynamics.

The LiDAR data will provide information about the shape of the terrain as well as the vertical structure of the land cover types. These data can therefore be used to compute surface hydrological parameters such as hydrological connectivity, patterns of accumulation of precipitation, delineate watersheds etc. Another very important component is that LiDAR data can provide the basis for interpreting key vegetation factors such as vegetation height, canopy closure, volumetrics etc.

The data will be combined with other data from the ecologic studies and socio-economic databases for a better understanding of the entire ecosystem dynamics in the area, such as:

  • Human impacts
  • Climate impacts
  • Wildlife-vegetation relations
  • Landscape structure effects