Ecosystem services and drivers of change in Nyando floodplain wetland, Kenya
Papyrus wetlands in East Africa play a vital role in supporting livelihoods of people living around them. Although, subject to natural fluctuations and threats by anthropogenic activities, little is known about historical changes in wetland functions and services, or their present status. We focused on Nyando wetland on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya. Three sites in the wetland were identified for assessment of history and current status. Changes during the past fifty years were assessed through participatory exercises with local communities and a review of published work. To establish the current status, we used field surveys and transect walks. Results showed that the wetland is important for hydrological and also ecological functions, which depend on the connectivity of the wetland with river and lake. The major direct drivers of change were hydrological regimes and livelihood activities. The main indirect driver of change was population growth, which leads to more pressure on wetland resources. Provisioning services are important in Nyando wetland but are generated at the expense of regulating services. Hydrology and livelihoods are strongly interlinked as flooding limits access to the wetland. Understanding the historical changes in wetland functions and services is important for rural communities, policy makers and for wetland managers in guiding, planning and wetland management.
Key words: Papyrus wetland, wetland ecosystem services, drivers of change, community perception, Nyando wetland.