Assessing the impact of land use change on carbon stocks and implications for adaptation to climate variability on the slopes of Mount Elgon, Eastern Uganda.
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Changes in land use have been noted to affect the amount of carbon held in vegetation and soil, with implications on climate change. This study therefore aimed at improving our understanding of the impact of land use change on carbon stocks, its implications for adaptation to climate variability and the multiple ways in which communities deal with climatic adversity on the slopes of Mount Elgon. The research used remotely sensed biophysical data to determine the extent of land use change between 1995 and 2013. The different land uses included forest under restoration, woodlots/plantations, land under agriculture, regenerating forest and intact forest. Land use change between 1995 and 2013 in the four land uses showed that agriculture land reduced from 2083sq.km to 1623.6sq.km, tropical/intact forest declined from 692.2sq.km to 675.9sq.km; whilst forest under recovery increased from 1173.7sq.km to 1708.6sq.km and woodland/plantation reduced from 250.1sq.km to 189.6sq.km. Carbon in above and below ground biomass was estimated using the allometric equations, whilst soil samples from the field were analysed for total carbon by the dry combustion method. Results from the lab analysis revealed that top soil layers (0-10cm) were found to store more carbon than the deeper ones (10-20cm and 20-30cm). Forest under restoration was found to store17.9t/ha of Carbon, 36.2 in regenerating forest, 121.6 t/ha in intact forest, 45.2t/ha for woodlots/plantations and 1.5 t/ha for Agriculture. Socio-economic data was also obtained through household surveys using a questionnaire and key informant interviews. Results indicate that socio-demographic characteristics affect household adaptation. Various indigenous indicators were used to predict weather changes including birds, dew, clouds and wind. Communities around Mt Elgon have developed ways of responding to climate variability notably through building stone houses, planting wind breakers, building pavements, shifting from landslide-prone areas, making contour bands and trenches, terracing, intercropping, spraying, crop rotation, and reliance on support services. It can thus be postulated that the decimation of land use with high carbon stocks reduces the potential of Mt. Elgon as a carbon sink in the carbon cycle. Thus, there is need for the scaling out and up of forest restoration programmes in and around mountain environments, whose success will depend on the active participation of all stakeholders including, UWA, local communities, politicians and leaders. It is very important that interventions specifically aimed at promoting adaptation are identified and prioritized, whilst curtailing the maladaptive ones.