The WaterBlog

On rangeland degradation and how to spot it from above

by Francesco Sambalino and Esmee Mulder Open rangeland in Africa is arguably the most iconic landscape on the continent. In eastern Africa, it is synonymous with savannah ecosystems. Barring the sanitized national parks, set up in colonial times to drive out pastoralist communities that always coexisted with wildlife, Masai people have always coexisted with wildlife. Cattle would graze with the wildebeest and drink alongside zebras. Movement is crucial, and only open spaces allow it. Variability in water and grass is the drumbeat that sets the tempo of a complex dance of people, livestock, and wildlife through the landscape. When it rains, natural depressions and small reservoirs provide water for a couple of months. This opens up the wet season grazing areas to both wildlife and livestock. Grass without water is of little use. Therefore, when this temporary supply of water dries out, everyone moves back to the rangeland where water is available year-round and where, in the meanwhile, grasses, shrubs… Continued

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