Impacts of Long-Term Disturbance on Soil Health With Relation To Vegetation Distribution in a Tropical Ecosystem

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Basweti, C. N.
Otor, S.
Manohar, S.
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Plant and Environmental Research Institute
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.
An Article Published in Plants and Environment
Land-use, Land-cover, Soil health, Mai Mahiu ecosystem, Kenya