Land cover change under unplanned human settlements: A study of the Chyulu Hills squatters, Kenya

Muriuki, Grace, Seabrook, Leonie, McAlpine, Clive, Jacobson, Chris, Price, Bronwyn and Baxter, Greg (2011) Land cover change under unplanned human settlements: A study of the Chyulu Hills squatters, Kenya. Landscape and Urban Planning, 99 2: 154-165. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2010.10.002

Author Muriuki, Grace
Seabrook, Leonie
McAlpine, Clive
Jacobson, Chris
Price, Bronwyn
Baxter, Greg
Title Land cover change under unplanned human settlements: A study of the Chyulu Hills squatters, Kenya
Journal name Landscape and Urban Planning   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0169-2046
Publication date 2011-02-28
Year available 2010
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2010.10.002
Volume 99
Issue 2
Start page 154
End page 165
Total pages 12
Editor P. H. Gobster
Place of publication Amsterdam, Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier
Language eng
Formatted abstract
While population growth is widely acknowledged as an important driver of land cover change, the role of unplanned human settlements is not adequately recognised. Many such settlements occur in the semi-arid lands of Kenya, which in the past had relatively lower human populations, but significant wildlife populations. Over the last four decades, the Chyulu Hills, adjacent to the Tsavo and Chyulu National Parks, have experienced rapid land cover changes associated with migrant squatter settlements. We used the Chyulu Hills to advance our understanding of the nature of land cover change under squatter settlements. We evaluated land cover change from aerial photographs and satellite images within a Geographic Information System (GIS) and combined it with landscape metrics and community surveys. Community perceptions of land cover change revealed comparable trajectories in major land cover types derived from the GIS analysis. Landscape metrics showed fragmentation of native vegetation followed by coalescence to contiguous patches of cultivation as settlements increased. Land cover trajectories under squatter settlements were influenced by historical land policies, protected area management as well as regional power structures. Our findings emphasize the importance of land use histories and community involvement in evaluating and understanding land cover change. Resolution of squatter conflicts should take cognisance of community perceptions, as well as the historical and political land use antecedents. We recommend human and social capacity building of squatters towards non-land-intensive micro-enterprises, and research and investment in ecotourism.

Research highlights: ▶ Rural landscapes under unplanned and/or squatter settlements may experience unprecedented rates and patterns of change in land cover. ▶ Combining empirical spatial analyses with community surveys can reveal important details in the process of land cover change, and can bridge an important knowledge gap in longitudinal studies where spatial and temporal gaps in remote sensing products are a constraint. ▶ Engaging squatters and illegal immigrants in land use planning may hold the potential for reduced conflicts in resource use where such settlements are in competition with conservation goals.
© 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keyword Squatters
Landscape analysis
Community assessments
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Available online 26 November 2010

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Created: Fri, 11 Feb 2011, 21:54:04 EST by Helen Smith on behalf of School of Integrative Systems