Impacts of Long-Term Disturbance on Soil Health With Relation To Vegetation Distribution in a Tropical Ecosystem
Basweti, C. N.
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Land-use and land-cover changes are the main cause of soil degradation and associated human and environmental problems. The study was conducted in Mai Mahiu ecosystem, Kenya whose aim was to assess long-term (1985 to 2015) impacts of land-use and land-cover changes on soil health with disturbance-induced vegetation distribution. Landsat archive was utilized to detect land-use change for 30 years at an interval of 15 years and analysed based on supervised image classification. Four land-use practices (undisturbed forest, disturbed forest, cropland and grassland) were selected and soil sampled to 15 cm depth for soil analyses. In this period, cropland increased by 135% at the expense of natural forest while built-up areas increased by three times. Soil bulk density increased significantly (p<0.001) from 0.93±0.02 g cm-3 in forest soil to 1.27±0.02 g cm-3 in disturbed grassland. Soil pH had significant change (p=0.002) that ranged between 6.19±0.14 and 7.18±0.12. Soil organic carbon declined significantly (p=0.008) with land-use change with losses of up to 63% recorded in disturbed grassland. Total nitrogen levels declined from 0.34% in the forest to 0.15% in disturbed grassland soil. The pronounced changes in land-use and land-cover in Mai Mahiu have negatively affected the soil health with a potential drop in soil productivity and ecosystem provisioning. An integrated approach, enforcement of relevant laws and policy implementation are recommended to restoring and maintaining soil quality of this ecosystem.