Upstream land-use negatively affects river flow dynamics in the Serengeti National Park

Kihwele, E.S., Veldhuis, M.P., Loishooki, A., Hongoa, J.R., Hopcraft, J.G.C., Olff, H., and Wolanski, E. (2021) Upstream land-use negatively affects river flow dynamics in the Serengeti National Park. Ecohydrology and Hydrobiology, 21 (1). pp. 1-12.

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In the Greater Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, with the Serengeti National Park (SNP) at its core, people and wildlife are strongly dependent on water supply that has a strong sea- sonal and inter-annual variability. The Mara River, the only perennial river in SNP, and a number of small streams originate from outside SNP before flowing through it. In those watersheds increasing grazing pressure from livestock, deforestation, irrigation and other land uses affect river flows in SNP that subsequently have impacts on wildlife. We quanti- fied the changes since the 1970s of river discharge dynamics. We found that the baseflow recession period for the Mbalageti River has remained unchanged at 70 days, which is a natural system inside SNP. By contrast it has decreased from 100 days in the 1970s to 16 days at present for the Mara River, coinciding with increased commercial-scale irrigation in Kenya that extract Mara River water before it reaches SNP. This irrigation will result in zero flow in the river in SNP if the proposed dams in the river in Kenya are built. We ob- served high flash floods and prolonged periods of zero flows in streams draining livestock grazed watersheds, where severe major erosion prevails that results in gully formation. This eroded sediment is expected to silt and dry out the scattered dry season water holes in SNP, which are an important source of drinkable water for wildlife during the dry sea- son. It appears likely that the future water supply of SNP is at risk, and this has major con- sequences for its people and wildlife. Ecohydrology-based solutions at the catchment scale are urgently needed to reduce catchment degradation while ensuring sustainable water provision.

Item ID: 65813
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2080-3397
Keywords: Watersheds flow recession rate river flow land use irrigation
Copyright Information: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of European Regional Centre for Ecohydrology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. This is an open access article under the CC BY license ( )
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2022 03:57
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3707 Hydrology > 370702 Ecohydrology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1803 Fresh, ground and surface water systems and management > 180301 Assessment and management of freshwater ecosystems @ 100%
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