Although colonialism ended decades ago and plantations along the coast were abandoned, the landscape remains out of equilibrium, he said: "This would be a lesson for other parts of the planet: When you perturb a system by clear-cutting the natural vegetation and it responds in a negative way, it loses its essence, and it responds not just for a few years or a few decades but maybe a century or even more."
Another factor driving soil erosion in Kenya is human pressure. As the population grows, more trees are harvested for fuel, which contributes to erosion, Dunbar said.
"Furthermore, a dramatic increase in population following independence [in 1963] together with unregulated land use, deforestation and severe droughts in the early 1970s all contributed to an unprecedented rate of soil erosion and flux of suspended sediment [and barium] to Malindi reef between 1974 and 1980," the authors wrote. Erosion remains a serious problem today, they added, thanks in part to continued urban sprawl, deforestation, poor farming practices and other human activities.
The authors called for stronger soil conservation effortsa goal that Kenya is unlikely to achieve on its own because of a lack of economic resources, they noted. However, if soil devastation continues, the socioeconomic consequences could be dire, Dunbar said. "Loss of soils constitutes loss of valuable natural capital for the people of East Africa," he noted. "A follow-on effect is that loss of the soils down
Contact: Mark Shwartz