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Profiles

Mr Maarten Wynants

REMOVE

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

Role

PhD researcher

Qualifications

  • Master in Biology: KULeuven (Belgium)
  • Bachelor in Biology: KULeuven (Belgium)

Research interests

The Lake Manyara basin in the East African Rift Region of Tanzania, inhabited by an estimated 3 million people, is considered to be an important driver for sustainable development in northern Tanzania, both in terms of ecotourism and irrigation based agriculture. Both Tarangire as Lake Manyara National parks, as well as Lakes Burungi, Babati and Manyara itself are located in the catchment. Lake Manyara National Park is not only an important tourist destination, but also has a vital function as a world famous wildlife corridor for Tarangire, Ngorogoro and Serengeti National Parks. Part of the lakes and rivers located in the catchment are also used for fishing by local communities which further contributes to local economy and livelihoods.  However, due to the raise in population pressure, increasing number of farmers have established agricultural operations in the fertile catchment area, causing a severe shift of the natural vegetation towards agricultural land. Furthermore, pastoralists with ever growing cattle stocks are roaming the dryer grasslands, causing a decrease in soil structure due to overgrazing and compaction of the soil. This increase in vulnerability to erosion in combination with the increased intensity of irrigation has led towards siltation and eutrophication of river channels,lakes and reservoirs. River silt originates on catchment hillslopes where the primary driver for mobilisation and translocation downstream is soil erosion on agricultural and degraded land.

We hypothesize that this increase in sedimentation and siltation presents a credible threat to ecosystem service provision, on the one hand the agricultural land where loss of this finite resource threatens food security and on the other hand the water bodies, where siltation and eutrophication threatens the water quality,biodiversity and ecosystem productivity. Knowledge of (i) sediment source and transfer dynamics in river catchments and (ii) effects of erosion and siltation on the ecosystem service provision is critical to inform sustainable management policy decisions to maintain and enhance future food and water security.

Working with Tanzanian partners at NM-AIST, the project aims to combine state-of-the-art soil and sediment tracing technology with catchment ecosystem assessment tools to demonstrate links between soil erosion and the degradation of downstream aquatic ecosystem services.