A Caltech Library Service

Desert landscape services: Insights from pastoralist communities in northern Kenya

Dan, Michelle E. and Olaka, Lydia A. and Mamo, Mamo Boru and Mutiso Chalo, Duncan and Cuni-Sanchez, Aida (2021) Desert landscape services: Insights from pastoralist communities in northern Kenya. Ecosystem Services, 48 . Art. No. 101243. ISSN 2212-0416. doi:10.1016/j.ecoser.2021.101243.

[img] MS Word (Supplementary data 1) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Deserts are often considered a low priority landscape in terms of ecosystem services. However, this evaluation may shift once deserts are also considered in terms of geodiversity and human-landscape interactions. We investigated which landscape services (LS) are provided by the desert landscape to two pastoralist communities (Gabra and Borana) in northern Kenya. We organized ten focus-group discussions (five male and five female) in both communities to identify LS, assess which plant and wild animal species were considered to be most important, and discuss the potential positive and negative impacts of future infrastructure development projects. All groups identified provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural LS, and distinguished which services were from biological or geological origin. Some differences were observed between groups, but all identified freshwater, pasture, and physical and mental well-being (freedom of movements and peace) as the most important LS. Differences were also observed in the species identified as important: e.g., Borana groups mentioned more plant species for medicine and fodder compared to Gabra groups. Both groups anticipated positive and negative impacts of future development projects but were unaware of the planned railway and oil pipeline infrastructure which will cross their community conservancies. The unique attachment to the desert, shared by Gabra and Borana communities, could serve as common ground to unify efforts to protect their landscapes. Participants’ responses demonstrate that identity, physical and mental well-being, and geological LS should be better integrated into landscape (or ecosystem) service assessments.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Olaka, Lydia A.0000-0002-5917-7586
Cuni-Sanchez, Aida0000-0001-8619-1095
Additional Information:© 2021 Elsevier. Received 27 April 2020, Revised 20 November 2020, Accepted 4 January 2021, Available online 11 February 2021. We are deeply grateful to our study participants, who graciously shared their knowledge, time, energy, and stories with us. We are thankful to our field assistant and translator A.M. Aide for making this research possible, and to P.Ch. Mutiso at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Nairobi, for his help with plant identification. We also thank the Watson Foundation for funding this research through the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and two anonymous reviewers for significantly improving our manuscript. The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Watson FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Desert landscape; Pastoralism; Socio-cultural assessment; Cultural benefits
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210216-140505236
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Michelle E. Dan, Lydia A. Olaka, Mamo Boru Mamo, Duncan Mutiso Chalo, Aida Cuni-Sanchez, Desert landscape services: Insights from pastoralist communities in northern Kenya, Ecosystem Services, Volume 48, 2021, 101243, ISSN 2212-0416,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:108078
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:16 Feb 2021 22:27
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 19:08

Repository Staff Only: item control page