New Ecosystems Classification System for Africa being developed

Published: Sep 24 2009

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is spearheading the development of a new ecosystems classification system for Africa.

Participants of consultative workshop at RCMRDThe project is being implemented under the auspices of the GEOSS Global Ecosystem Mapping initiative and has seen USGS develop similar classification and maps for South America and USA. Other key partners in the development of the African component are NatureServe and the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD).

To start the process off, a consultative workshop that has attracted 23 top vegetation scientists from Africa and USA is being held at RCMRD, Nairobi, Kenya from 21 – 24 September 2009. The experts, mostly drawn from the fields of phytogeography, ecosystem geography and vegetation science will help describe over 200 vegetation assemblages and ascertain their precise location on the content. This will form the framework for developing a new African terrestrial ecosystems map. All data developed under this effort, as well as the classification and final ecosystems mapping products will be made publicly available via the USAID and NASA supported SERVIR-Africa portal that is housed at RCMRD. The preliminary findings of this work will be unveiled at the AfricaGIS Conference to be held in Kampala, Uganda, in October 2009.  

Speaker and participants at workshop Speaking on behalf of Kenya’s Environment minister, the Director of the Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS), Mr. Jaspat Agatsiva emphasized the importance and timeliness of developing the classification system and added that the product will help Africa better understand its ecosystems and biodiversity. He decried the clearing of forests and other forms of vegetation in Africa that has led to environmental degradation and climate change. He cited the case of Kenya where climate change impacts were being felt not only on human and animal health, but also on agriculture, water supplies, transport, tourism and hydro-electric power generation. He stated that the government of Kenya was in the process of relocating illegal settlers from its forests and was targeting to increase the country’s forest cover to 10 % by 2030.

He further stated that his ministry had been involved in the use of Geo-information to assess and map land resources in the country and urged the participants to prescribe ways of utilizing the data that they produce so as to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change that among other factors are driven by destruction of vegetation cover and ecosystems.

In his welcoming remarks, RCMRD’s Director General Dr. Hussein Farah hoped that the workshop will help push the agenda for better environmental management and that the information generated will be used to enhance decision making and sustainable planning. He urged the participants to come up with a better classification system at the end of the workshop. The project’s lead, Dr. Roger Sayre of USGS expressed optimism that the experience gained in South America and USA will help derive a better product for Africa. He further looked forward to starting similar work in Asia and Australia.

For more information:
US Ecosystems Mapping description:
GEOSS Global Ecosystem Mapping description:

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