The Gorongosa National Park, located in Central Mozambique, has been undergoing rehabilitation, after years of civil strife lasting from 1975 to 2004, which destroyed most of the national parks’ physical and human infrastructure. Mount Gorongosa was proclaimed part of Gorongosa National Park by a government decree published in May 2010 and is the main source of water for the park. One of the biggest conservation challenges for the Gorongosa National Park, is that Mount Gorongosa, geographically detached from the core park, located in north west of the original 4,000 square kilometre park, and one of the few remaining rainforests of eastern Africa, is under threat from excessive deforestation, due mainly from increasing human settlement. The objective of the research was therefore to evaluate the land use change process on and around Gorongosa Mountain from 2000 to 2010, so as to determine the rate, state, magnitude and possible impacts of forestry loss on the Gorongosa Mountain. Land use change was analysed using Landsat satellite images of the years 2000, 2005, 2010. An IKONOS image of 2010 was used for ground truthing and this was complemented with available field survey data. Change detection was carried out on the images for the different year intervals. From the classified images, it was revealed that Montane forest declined by 13% from 29% in 2005 to 16% of the total mountain area in 2010 and this was largely attributed to cutting down of trees for cultivation purposes. Wooded grasslands, however increased from 3% to 22% and this was attributable to the practice of slash and burn agriculture around the mountain as most of the wooded grassland areas were areas of vegetation regeneration after the areas had been abandoned. For the years 2000 and 2005 an analysis of net vegetation changes particularly focusing on the Montane forest revealed that more area was lost to wooded areas and cleared areas in the magnitude of 1.5% and 3.8% respectively. Losses to cultivated areas contributed marginally in the region of 0.3%. However, between 2005 and 2010, cultivated areas, wooded grassland, and cleared areas contributed 5.5%, 4% and 1 % respectively to the loss in Montane forest on the mountain. The most dominant farming activity threatening the mountain is the cultivation of potatoes on the rich fertile mountain slopes. Overall, the continuous loss of protective vegetative cover from the mountain will not only results in loss of flora and fauna, but will also result in drying of springs, soil erosion, flush floods, loss of animal habitats, reduced water flow and siltation of Lake Urema. This will eventually leads to loss of livelihoods as people will not be able to access the traditional non timber forest products from the mountain. There is therefore an urgent need to preserve the remaining forest areas on the mountain so as to protect the water sources of Lake Urema, hence protect the “pulse” of Gorongosa National Park. There is also need to intensify reforestation activities especially on the highly sensitive areas like river sources especially to combat erosion. Since there are people already residing within the park, there is need to intensify conservation education measures so as to protect the biodiversity on the mountain and on the plains.
This post was written by Sam Kusangaya (Gorongosa National Park). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.