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From end of August to mid September we will conduct our first joint activities within the project BIOCULT together with our partners from Taita Taveta and Pwani University. Together with our colleagues and students we will work on the following wokring packages:

 

tree_canopy

​​​​​​Picture of tree canopy in the Taita Hills (photo by: Christine Schmitt)

 

WP Land use and agroecology: In this working package we will analyse the current status of the sacred forest shrines (fighis) and their potential threats. Furthermore, we will map current and historic springs and wells to assess the function of the Taita Hills as water tower for the local area and lower regions around the Taita Hills massif. Here we will use GPS coordinates in combination with land use information from historic aerial photographs and latest satellite imagery to picture the mosaic of fighis, the importance of springs and wells and current land uses as well as their agroecological value.

WP Butterfly Ecology: We will analyse the population structure and movement ecology of two forest butterflies, Precis tugela and Salamis parhasus, for the forest patch Chawia. This study will be based on extensive Mark-Release-Recapture (MRR) activities. We will mark butterflies with a waterproof pen while circulating around the forest patch (once a day, during a period of 1 month). We will measure exact GPS coordinates for each butterfly captured and will identify sex and age (status of wing, classified into four classes of age) - before releasing the individual.

WP Vegetation Ecology: We will assess the condition of the Taita Hill forest fragments as habitat for birds and as providers of ecosystem services by use of vegetation surveys. These will be conducted in selected plots across the Taita Hills forests to assess vegetation structure, tree diversity and tree biomass. With the help of this data, we will evaluate the status of important ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and thus climate change mitigation.

WP Bird ecology: We will assess habitat use and home range size of forest specialist birds using radio telemetry. Furthermore, long-term data on reproductive success will be combined with vegetation data to assess the effects of habitat quality effects on the viability of individual birds and thus local populations.

WP Social Sciences: We will investigate how to best reconciliate food security by sustainable and appropriate land use in the Taita Hills. Therefore, we will survey relevant stakeholder, such as local farmers, as well as political stakeholders to assess the status of food security and sustainable land use across the whole Taita Hills massif. As food is a highly cultural issue, we will also evaluate the crops used for farming in the region within the scope of origin, agroeconomic value and nutrient value. The objectives of this working package are to analyse the anthropogenic influences on land management and the subsequent effects on ecosystem services and food security.