Drought and Degradation: Remote Sensing in Africa’s South Rift

EarthzineDEVELOP Fall 2013 VPS, Original

Team Location: Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

A calculated water basin surrounding the Amboseli National Park, and a portion of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Flow accumulation is shown in white and blue. Image Credit: Kenya Water Resources Team, NASA DEVELOP National Program.

A calculated water basin surrounding the Amboseli National Park, and a portion of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Flow accumulation is shown in white and blue. Image Credit: Kenya Water Resources Team, NASA DEVELOP National Program.


Authors:
Emily Voelker, Project Lead (University of Maryland)
Colin Doyle (Georgetown University)
Jane Karakashian (Montgomery College)
Mentors/Advisers:
Jeffrey Masek, Ph.D. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
Frederick Policelli (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
Quinten Geddes (Science Systems and Applications, Inc.)
Past/Other Contributors:
DEVELOP 2013 Summer Amboseli Eco Forecasting Team, Goddard Space Flight Center
Abstract:
The South Rift lies across the border of Kenya and Tanzania, and encompasses a series of basins and reserves that include the Amboseli National Park, Lake Magadi and Mount Kilimanjaro. Over the past several decades, much of this area has experienced extensive land use and land-cover change, as well as an increase in drought frequency and severity. In the Amboseli, increasingly sedentary agriculture and grazing are segregating the landscape and disturbing natural wildlife migration. This stands in contrast to the Lake Magadi region, which is much like the Amboseli’s historic ecosystem. This project partnered with the Amboseli Conservation Program (ACP), which has worked in this area for nearly 50 years. The ACP is interested in this land-cover change for the entire South Rift, and the effect of land use on vegetation. Water is therefore of high importance.
To examine these concerns, a land-cover classification was created for the South Rift for 1995, 2000 and 2013, using Landsat 5, 7 and 8 data, and a change detection map was created for the interims. Changes in vegetative productivity over time were compared using the Terra Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor’s Normalized Difference Vegetation Index product in 16-day time steps starting in 2000, which was then compared with congruent Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) precipitation data. Watershed and flow accumulation patterns were mapped using a Shuttle Radar Technology Mission Digital Elevation Model (SRTM DEM). In addition, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) groundwater and TRMM precipitation data were put into the Water Balance Tool (WABAT) energy balance model. This project’s methodologies provide researchers and advocates in the South Rift with valuable pictures of land use and land-cover change over time, as well as the patterns of water resources that influence that change.

Return to the Fall 2013 VPS page.