Forest ThreatNet

Volume 5, Issue 1 - Spring 2012

Forest Science Benefits Water Resources in African Countries

by Erika Cohen, EFETAC

EFETAC is helping eastern and southern African countries improve water quality and quantity. These countries often suffer from extreme challenges that negatively affect local water resources – including population growth, extremes in weather, and poor farming methods. Researchers developed the Water Supply Stress Index-Carbon and Biodiversity (WaSSI-CB) model that quantifies the potential impact of land use practices on water resources, which can be used by conservation agencies in Africa to make sound short- and long-term land management decisions.

"We are excited about introducing WaSSI-CB in Africa," says Steve McNulty, Raleigh team leader and research ecologist. "We have a real opportunity to positively influence water issues in Rwanda, Zambia, and Tanzania, which will also help us to continually improve its application throughout the United States and use by Forest Service land managers."

WaSSI team, Zambia, 2011WaSSI-CB and the Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST) model, developed by the Natural Capital Project, together target both water quantity and quality. The models were recently applied in three Wildlife Conservation Society priority landscapes in eastern and southern Africa – the Nyungwe- Kibira Landscape, Rwanda; the Luangwa Valley, Zambia; and the Ruaha River Landscape, Tanzania. Water resources in these areas are stressed due to changes in climate and land management practices over the years.

Above: Eastern Threat Center researchers Erika Cohen (center standing), Ge Sun (right), and Steve McNulty (back right) met with African leaders to discuss using WaSSI and InVEST models to address water quality and quantity issues.

"WaSSI-CB and InVEST will have several benefits in Africa," says Japhet Seulu, a Wildlife Conservation Society representative in Zambia. "The models will help us determine water availability, a critical lifeline for wildlife needed to sustain Zambia's tourism industry, and provide information to help develop coping strategies that compensate for rain-starved crops."

The nine-month project began in January 2011 with final results presented during a September workshop in Kigali, Rwanda, to key stakeholders from Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, and other watershed management authorities across Africa. Participants discovered potential for adding WaSSI-CB and InVEST to their decision making toolbox.

The Eastern Threat Center partnered with the Forest Service's International Programs Office, the Daniel Boone National Forest (KY), the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the US Agency for International Development. The multi-disciplinary team included the Eastern Threat Center's Erika Cohen, resource information specialist; Steve McNulty; Ge Sun, research hydrologist; and Matthew Wingard, Daniel Boone GIS coordinator. The team hopes to continue the project in 2012 and implement feedback received at the Kigali workshop.

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