Seasonal interactions of pastoralists and wildlife in relation to pasture in an African savanna ecosystem

Russell, S. T., et al., 2018. Journal of Arid Environments

Original research (primary data)
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Wildlife and livestock have coexisted across East African rangelands for millennia, tracking seasonal forage availability across large landscapes. More recently however, free-ranging movements have been increasingly restricted by land use changes, reducing the ability of livestock and wildlife to access necessary grazing resources, leading to both homogenization and degradation of the rangeland. This in turn has led to losses in productivity of both livestock and wildlife. This study describes wildlife and livestock interactions in response to pasture in one of the few remaining areas of mixed wildlife-livestock use with unrestricted movements. We ask if pastoral management systems can create and maintain spatial and temporal heterogeneity of pasture, through the seasonal movement of livestock. Furthermore, does this heterogeneity create a diverse, productive and resilient assemblage of both domestic and wild ungulates? Our results provide evidence to support the notion that traditional pastoral systems which continue to manage for heterogeneity of pasture can still support not only livestock but also substantial numbers of wildlife. The results highlight the need for wildlife and livestock to retain both mobility and access to both wet and dry season areas to maintain ecosystem resilience and promote coexistence in mixed livestock-wildlife landscapes.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-247-1
  • Intervention type: Combination
  • Intervention description:

    Community-based conservation: In Shompole and Olkiramatian the traditional seasonal livestock movements and herding practices are formalized by group ranch grazing plans governed by local committees. The wet season grazing areas in both group ranches are termed ‘livestock zones.’ [MAN] The dry season grazing areas have been retained as a ‘grass banks’ for livestock and since 2000 have been established as wildlife conservancies used for ecotourism [PRO]...Seasonally the communities of both group ranches move their livestock between the livestock rearing zone in the wet season and the grass bank in the dry season when regional grass biomass and quality decline.

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: Yes
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Loss of food production  Positive Agricultural Production (Positive effect) Maintenance of heterogeneous resource base quantified as grass bio- mass, grass height, percentage grazed and percentage green. Outcome measures compared between wet and dry season grazing areas during different time periods (to determine heterogeneity and complimentarity) Also determine density and mean production (−2.yr−1) of livestock “The Shompole-Olkiramatian ecosystem showed considerable resilience during the 2009 drought compared to neigh- boring Amboseli, where losses in both livestock and wildlife were far higher”
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Located at the western edge of Great Rift Valley on the international border between Kenya and Tanzania, the study area borders the Nguruman Escarpment and Loita Hills to the West, the alkaline Lake Magadi to the East, and the alkaline Lake Natron to the South.

  • Country: Kenya
  • Habitat/Biome type: Tropical and subtropical grasslands |
  • Issue specific term: Community-based (general)


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: Effectiveness is predominantly assessed in mode analagous to a threshold. They assess whether the biomass produced in the different grazing areas is sufficient to sustain grazer production over the year and also during droughts. e.g. "The grass bank is only grazed out during the longest dry periods." use long term ecological monitoring to assess this. They also though rely on secondary data to compare effectiveness during drought to neighbouring area that lacked this form of management
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: Yes
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Positive
  • Ecosystem measures: "Densities of different wildlife species and species numbers “Here we demonstrate the presence of diverse and abundant wildlife populations that coexist with a productive livestock population within a community governed ecosystem. This is in contrast to other community managed rangelands of Kenya, where livestock populations continue to increasingly exceed that of wildlife, often to the detriment of wildlife populations (Ogutu et al., 2016). ” “Despite the predominance of livestock, the Shompole-Olkiramatian area still maintains a rich diversity and abundance of wildlife. We at- tribute the coexistence to the continuance of the traditional seasonal movements between wet and dry season ranges and ability of wildlife to maneuver freely among the domestic herds along the pasture gradient” The authors state that ' the overall values demonstrate that in this landscape the biodiversity is higher than in areas where rangelands are compressed, subdivided and more intensively grazed (e.g. not traditionally managed)' the purpose of this study is to show how such a community-based approach can support biodiversity and livestock.
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: Yes
  • Impacts for people: Positive
  • People measures: Social outcome measures Same as for climate impact because measuring grazing outcomes for specific community
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: No
  • Experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Empirical case study
  • Study is systematic: