Barriers to soil sustainability, food security and biodiversity conservation in the Albertine Rift
Author: Lisa Tiemann
The goals of this research project are to determine 1) how interactions between socioeconomic and soil fertility factors generate unsustainable agricultural practices in Uganda; 2) how alarming trends of productivity loss might be reversed; and 3) how the reversal of productivity declines can be used to protect one of Earth‚Äôs most valuable biodiversity resources ‚Äì the Albertine Rift including Kibale National Park. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the research integrates elements of ecology, soil and social sciences to link patterns of land use intensity with soil fertility and the socioeconomic barriers that inhibit sustainable farming practices around Kibale National Park in Uganda. I am tracking the impacts of soil fertility loss in Uganda by first compiling survey data for broad scale quantitative assessments of the effects of traditional land management practices as compared with perceptions about productivity and soil fertility in a spatially explicit manner. In addition to survey data, soil fertility will be defined by measurements of SOM, soil carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and other micronutrients, pH, water holding capacity and microbial biomass. Then, I will integrate demographic factors, ethnicity, and risks, overlaid with land use and areas of actual declines in soil fertility. The project will also explore new paradigms in SOM formation and degradation to form a better understanding of links between land use and soil fertility. Specifically, I am investigating the influence of land use intensity on microbial substrate use efficiencies and the production of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) as factors controlling SOM dynamics, using a novel approach to characterize microbial EPS production in soils.¬† The integration of the resulting data will be useful in identifying hotspots for SOM declines and the concomitant socio-economic factors that may act as barriers in maintaining SOM and soil fertility.
This research is in conjunction with the Population, Environment and Climate in the Albertine Rift project (http://pecar.unh.edu)
Articles written about this project: