Cutting-edge tech used to measure tree cover, says KFS

Cutting-edge technology including use of high resolution satellite imagery was deployed to determine the status of tree resources in the country, authorities have said.

Kenya Forest Service Chief Conservator Julius Kamau said highly competent personnel in a multi-agency approach were also used to determine the status of tree cover.

Results generated from the National Forest Resources Assessment 2021 indicate that Kenya has 7,180,000.66ha of tree cover, representing 12.13 per cent of the total area.

The report was launched at State House Nairobi by President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 27.

On June 1, the President in his speech during Madaraka day directed that the country work towards achieving a 30 per cent tree cover by 2050.

Over the weekend, CCF Kamau told the Star that tree, forest, and land use were quantified using the integration of wall-to-wall World View-3 mapping with a high spatial resolution sam­ple based assessment.

“Previous mapping initiatives used me­dium resolution images that mainly focused on the forest cover mapping. Data on scattered trees, trees under agroforestry systems, and woodlots under 0.5ha were never captured,” Kamau said.

He said the de­ployment of medium resolution images made it difficult to map deciduous trees due to the shedding of foliage during the dry season.

Trees are defined as woody perennial plants of at least two meters in height with one or several stems, have a definite crown that also includes bamboos, palms, fruit trees and excludes non-perennial nonwoody species such as banana and tall shrubs or climbers. 

A forest is land area of more than 0.5ha, at least canopy cover of at least 15 per cent, and trees of a minimum of two meters in height, which is not primarily under agricultural or other specific non-forest land use.

Kamau said the provision of this accurate (89 per cent accuracy achieved), timely and reliable data on tree and forest resources is es­sential in the actualisation of the Forest Conservation and Management Act 2016. Article 8(K) (i) and (ii) requires that Kenya Forest Service prepares a For­est Status Report bi-annually and Forest Resource Assessment Report after every five years.

Kamau said the tree and forest resource assessment was undertaken as part of the effort to generate vital information that will guide the sector in honouring its obligation.

“The report is a documentation of statistics on percentage tree cover, the extent and dis­tribution of forests, forest types and land use land cover,” he said.

From the assessment, up to 37 counties out of the 47 (79 per cent) have a tree cover percentage greater than the constitutional set target of 10 per cent tree cover.

In addition, results reveal that the country has a tree cover per capita index of 1,507.48m2 per person.

The findings indicate that the country has 5,226,191.79ha of the national forest cover that represents 8.83 per cent of the total area.

The report shows the distribution of forests and tree cover across the 47 counties.

The Central region, parts of Western and Coast region are the most forested.     

The proportions of total land area under forests and tree cover vary significantly by ecological regions and counties.

Of significance is that 21 counties have forest cover above the national forest cover (8.83 per cent), while 26 counties’ forest cover fell below the national forest cover.

The results show that up to 10 counties have a tree cover less than the constitutional target of 10 per cent.

Nyeri is the leader with a tree cover of 45.17 per cent, Lamu (44.06), and Vihiga (35.92).

Counties with the lowest tree cover include Kisumu (8.85), Busia (8.39), Uasin Gishu (8.04), Taita Taveta (6.87), Isiolo (6.7), Machakos (6.03), Siaya (5.27), Wajir (4.45), Mandera (3.61) and Marsabit (2.06).

The report shows that wooded grasslands account for the highest land cover in Kenya, with approximately 70 per cent of the total land area.

Kamau said the assessment serves as a baseline for tree cover as it is the first time this has been done. It is instrumental in de­veloping strategies and action plans to spearhead forest protection, conservation, and management.

He said the report will guide in the strategic deployment of criti­cal resources to help the country in its at­tempt to enhance the forest cover beyond the 10 per cent.

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