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Eastern Arc
 
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Overview
The Eastern Arc Mountains are a chain of ancient crystalline mountains covering over 500,000 hectares that run from Taita Hills in southern Kenya to the Makambako Gap to the southwest of the Uzungwa Mountains in Tanzania. These mountains are considered a separate group from other nearby mountains such as the volcanic Mt. Kilimanjaro because they are under the direct climatic influence of the Indian Ocean. The mountain chain is a series of isolated mountains that have been heavily covered by forests. Covering these mountains are forests classified as montane, submontane and lowland/foothills. The Eastern Arc Mountains have been recognized by Conservation International as one of the 24 globally important hotspots for threatened biodiversity. Why? Because much of the original forest has been converted to agricultural crop production. Further, the mountains are also a major source of hydropower, water and a vast array of forest projects.


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Forest Monitoring in the Eastern Arc Mountains
In 1999, the US Forest Service began a two-year project consisting of an evaluation of forest health, land-use change and information sharing in the Eastern Arc Mountains. A 1997 conference held in Morogoro, Tanzania concluded that the unique Eastern Arc Mountain ecosystem is undergoing an accelerated rate of destruction, prompting the need for documentation on forest health information and documentation. Without this crucial data, neither land managers nor policymakers can plan effective future actions.

The objective of the two-year US Forest Service evaluation is to show the current status and trend in forest condition through the use of forest health monitoring and remote sensing technology and techniques. The US Forest Service engaged in a number of activities which included establishing permanent plots and using remote sensing and special aerial and ground survey techniques and the of training local individuals in the use of forest health monitoring information. These activities were considered fundamental if the region hopes to maintain long-term data gathering. Through a series of workshops, information exchanges, technical on-site trainings and the establishment of an information technology system, this two-year phase looks to provide enough knowledge for the region to begin assessing and outlining remedial actions.


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A) Stakeholder Workshop
In December 2000, a workshop in Kenya brought together 19 participants from 14 different organizations using remote sensing and geospatial technologies. Objectives of the meeting were to understand institutional priorities and interests better, to provide clarity on threats and conservation opportunities, and to build consensus on the next steps in the region, including a framework for potential partnerships in the use of remote sensing and geospatial technologies. Institutional overviews and priorities revealed strengths in experience and understanding of the application of remote sensing for resource monitoring and forest conservation, but gaps in abilities to acquire and share imagery and data among organizations, especially at the field level, were highlighted. Each organization provided a paper describing their experience in the use of remote sensing and current capacities. These papers may be reviewed on the Eastern Arc Mountain Project web page.

The workshop concluded that although satellite imagery is now available for parts of the Eastern Arc Mountains, additional analysis is necessary for the remaining areas. All institutions agreed on the need to improve communication and coordination, and make the information and products derived from remote sensing more readily available. Strategic actions were proposed to address future land cover classification and forest cover change detection. These included discussions to increase collaboration among the Arc Mountain Project cooperators with the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Africover Project. A follow up meeting is planned in Nairobi on January 26 at the Centre.


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B) Forest Monitoring Plot Development in Kenya
The US Forest Service team organized a workshop on remote sensing in the region devoted to monitoring forest cover change. A December 2000 workshop "Remote Sensing for the Determination of Forest Cover Change" brought together 19 participants from 14 major institutions, organizations and programs using remote sensing and geospatial technologies operating in Kenya and Tanzania. The focus of the workshop was to promote an understanding of institutional priorities and interests, provide clarity on threats and conservation opportunities in the region, and build consensus on strategic conservation actions.

The only part of the Eastern Arc Mountain chain in Kenya is the Taita Hills, located in the southern region of Kenya. Recent analysis of Landsat TM satellite imagery by the US Forest Service reveal the Taita Hills have experienced a 37% loss of closed canopy mountain forest between 1987 and 1999, with only 284 hectares of original loss remaining. Pressure for agricultural land resulted in the destruction of most of the original forests. Only a very small portion of the remaining land has any agricultural potential and much of it lies in the higher altitudes where the forests are found. The increase in human population and its associated demands continue to place significant pressure on these areas. This information was generated in 1999, providing scientific evidence that can support future strategies.

In February 2000, US Forest Service experts established five forest health monitoring plots in the Ngangoa forest of Taita Hills area. The plots assessed vegetation classes and established 16 in 2001. Nine Kenyans have been certified in plot establishment techniques. Forestry specialists from the region will examine these plots every four years Information on the status and trend of the ecosystem's health will be determined by measuring several indicators such as growth, crown condition, and damage indicators. Employees from Kenyan government agencies, local universities and conservation groups were trained in establishing and monitoring permanent plots.


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C) Forest Monitoring in Tanzania
The US Forest Service reveals that its Landsat TM satellite imagery in the Pare Mountains has indicated a 31% loss of the closed canopy mountain forest. Seven monitoring plots were established in conjunction with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Forestry and Beekeeping Division in 2000: 3 in the East Usambara Mountains, 3 in the Uluguru Mountains and one in Zanzibar. In the East Usambara Mountains, the three are located in the Amani Nature Reserve. 12 more plots were established and six Tanzanians have been certified in plot establishment techniques in 2001.


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D) Forest Monitoring Website Development
One objective of the project's funding is to design and implement an information technology system to improve communications among those working in the Eastern Arc Mountains and to demonstrate the capability and use of these technologies. The University of Georgia has created a web site to provide detailed information on the project.


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