Ecohydrology as a tool for the survival of the threatened Serengeti ecosystem

Gereta, Emmanuel , Mwangomo, Ephraim, and Wolanski, Eric (2009) Ecohydrology as a tool for the survival of the threatened Serengeti ecosystem. Ecohydrology and Hydrobiology, 9 (1). pp. 115-124.

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Abstract

The results of 10 years of monitoring water quality and quantity during the period 1996-2006 in the three rivers (Mbalageti, Grumeti and Mara) draining the Serengeti ecosystem are presented, together with river gauging data starting in 1948, rainfall data starting in 1960, and animal population data starting in 1960. Water quality remained unchanged in the Mbalageti and Grumeti rivers; these rivers are seasonal and they dry out during a drought. The Mara River is perennial and is vital to maintain the ecosystem during a drought. Its quality has changed, with increased contribution from groundwater, with higher pH and visibility and decreasing salinity. The flow rate during a drought has decreased by 68% since 1972. This is attributed to deforestation of its upper catchment in the Mau forest in Kenya and to extraction of water for irrigation in Kenya upstream of the ecosystem. Hydrological modeling suggests that the Mara River would now dry out for two months and one month respectively if the 1949-1952 and the 1972-1973 severe droughts occurred again. Ecohydrologic modeling suggests that this would in turn lead to the collapse of the herbivore population from the lack of drinking water. This model also suggests that providing drinking water to the animals at artificial water holes spread throughout the ecosystem would lead to decadal time-scale booms and busts of the herbivore population. The Serengeti ecosystem stability is maintained by the annual migration that partitions the ecosystem in seasonally used compartments. It is thus necessary to restore the natural hydrology of the Mara River in Kenya, and this requires remediation measures in Kenya. If that does not occur, disaster prevention measures are needed by providing water in weirs, dams, and artificial wetlands along the Mara River in the Serengeti National Park, as well as extending by 5 km the western edge of the park so as to reach Lake Victoria to provide acces to permanent water.

Item ID: 11074
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1642-3593
Keywords: drought; migration; stability; Mara River; Kenya; Tanzania
Date Deposited: 21 May 2010 04:27
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960903 Coastal and Estuarine Water Management @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960502 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Environments @ 50%
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