WCS Uganda has extensive experience in GIS and remote sensing with expertise that can manage both satellite imagery and aerial photography. The GIS department was established in the early 2000s to support WCS’s conservation activities in the country and the broader region.Satellite image analysis is handled with software such as Erdas Imagine, Idrisi and ArcGIS 10.x, while aerial photography is handled using EnsoMOSAIC software. EnsoMOSAIC is a digital aerial imaging and image processing system. It is a complete set of hardware and software from flight planning to produce high-resolution geo-referenced and ortho-rectified image mosaics as well as 3Dimaging. The focus of GIS analyses has been on Uganda with some additional support to the entire Albertine Rift. Here we give details of work done within Uganda. Work carried out in the Albertine Rift is detailed at www.albertinerift.org.
WCS image analysis projects in Uganda
1.Creating vegetation maps of protected areas
Using aerial photographs ortho-rectified with EnsoMOSAIC, we have mapped the vegetation of a number of Protected Areas and also mapped households of the surrounding community areas. These include Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo Valley National Parks, Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve(WR), East Madi WR, Kaiso-tonya Community Conservation Area, Otzi Forest Reserve (FR), Agoro-Agu FR and the Lake Albert shoreline.
2.Creating maps of vegetation and sensitivity to minimize development impacts
WCS aerial photos were used to generate a detailed land cover map for the Murchison Falls National Park oil exploration areas, and also to develop sensitivity and 3D maps for the Total Uganda operation area in MFNP. Working with JICA, we prepared land cover, crown cover,dominant species, tree height and maps of land cover change for the area where the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Murchison Falls National Park had been proposed.
3.Developing maps for Natural Resource management planning
We carried out vegetation mapping using2002 Landsat images and assessed vegetation change between 1985 and 2005 for the northern Uganda region. The aim of this study was to look at the impact of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) war on the environment across northern Uganda.The study showed that, with insecurity and settlement of people in Internally Displaced Person’s (IDPs) camps, the tree cover had increased where the LRA was active but had greatly decreased elsewhere. The results were used by USAID to plan their development interventions in Northern Uganda, aiming to minimize environmental destruction.
4.Land cover change analyses
WCS carried out vegetation mapping for the Murchison-Semliki landscape using 2006 Aster images and assessed the vegetation change of the same landscape between 2000-2006 and 2006-2010. We also developed maps from a socio-economic survey carried out to identify drivers of vegetation change. The results were used to plan for the REDD+ project in this landscape.
5.Modelling to inform conservation:
We have modelled critical animal corridors in the Murchison-Semliki Landscape using a least cost path analysis for various species identified as needing this connectivity to maintain viable populations.The corridors identified have been used to guide site selection for conservation efforts by various institutions and were incorporated in the Environmental Action Plan developed by the Ministry of Environment for this Landscape.
Over the past two years, WCS has been developing species distribution models for endemic and threatened plants, mammals,reptiles, amphibians and birds in the Albertine Rift. These models identify current, and potential future sites, which are or will be suitable for each species. The model outputs are being used to identify potential refugia sites in the face of climate change impacts as well as for conservation planning and trade-off analyses for different land uses. Species modelling is also being used to examine patterns of environmental dependence of the emerging infectious disease of amphibians (chytridiomycosis), which is a major threat to amphibian survival around the world.
WCS is also carrying out a modelling activity to identify potential oil pipeline routes, taking into consideration environmental conservation issues. We aim to incorporate a cost-benefit assessment of avoiding critical areas for conservation or for people.
6.Training Ugandans in GIS
WCS has also provided GIS training to technical staff of government and non-government institutions, and higher institutions of learning. Through this training, all UWA monitoring and research staff have been trained in the use of ARCGIS, and Gulu University has now incorporated GIS training in several of their courses and has a well-established GIS lab.