Long-term changes in Serengeti-Mara wildebeest and land cover: pastoralism, population, or policies?

Long-term changes in Serengeti-Mara wildebeest and land cover: pastoralism, population, or policies?

Spread of mechanised agriculture is responsible for major changes in the Serengeti ecosystem

Declines in habitat and wildlife in semiarid African savannas arefrequently attributed to factors such as agropastoral population growth, livestock impacts, and subsistence cultivation. This article however argues that such directional changes are hard to establish and fluctuations in rainfall variability, grazer popualtions and vegetation formations need to be taken into account.

The paper:

  • analyses the long-term outcomes of different land-use practices and policies on environment, wildlife, demography, and socio-economic conditions in the Serengeti Mara Ecosystem (SME)
  • summarises recent changes in the ecosystem
  • examines the factors potentially driving these changes
  • provides simple projections of land conversion trends

The paper also provides a conceptual model for analysing the dynamics of the changes addressed.

The paper concludes that:

  • overall rapid land-cover change and wildlife decline are restricted to the Kenyan part of the system
  • it is not agro-pastoral land use but rather the spread of mechanized agriculture, that has caused the major changes in land cover and wildebeest numbers
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