The Disappearing Forest: A case study of trends in land use and land cove r change of the threatened Lower Tana River Forest Complex, Coastal Kenya.

The main cause of land use and land cover changes (LULCC) is through changes in the way human beings use and manage their land resources. One of the most vulnerable natural resources most threatened by human beings is the forest. This study investigated trends in LULCC in the Lower Tana River Forest Complex (LTRFC) using Remote Sensing (RS) and GIS technology. The forest is located in the Kenya Coastal lowland and is of considerable value for both biodiversity conservation and local livelihoods. Analysis was carried out using multi-temporal images and field based studies, with a view to understand the dynamics of land use and land cover changes, especially deforestation and associated agricultural developments activities from 1995 to 2004. During the 9 years period, significant changes occurred in areas under the forest and agriculture. In 1995, the major land use and land cover was forest (7185.51 km 2 ), grassland (7010 km 2 ) and agriculture (243.87 km 2 ). The land use and land cover change was quite dynamic within the 9 year period. The forest cover decreased from about 7185.52 km 2 in 1995 to 1852.6 km 2 in 2004, a 74.2 per cent loss. On the other hand, the area under agriculture increased considerably by almost ten times, from 243.87 km 2 in 1995 to 2346.65 km 2 ha in 2004, a 862.25% gain. This means that most of the area previously under forest was lost to cultivation. Therefore there is need for proper land use planning and community awareness on the implications of this land use and land cover changes. It is also prudent that the forest management stakeholder in the area come together to collectively participate in the conservation of Lower Tana River Forest Complex.