Peter Ng'ang'a Gitau is an experienced ecologist with a demonstrated history of working in environmental conservation. Skilled in biodiversity assessment, wetland research, environmental impact assessment, sustainable development, GIS and remote sensing and science communication. He has a strong research training with a PhD focused on geography from the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle- Sorbonne Université, Paris, France, a Master of Science (MSc) focused in Ecology from Vrije Universiteit Brussel and a Bachelor of science (BSc) in Environmental conservation and natural resource management from University of Nairobi, Kenya. Currently he is a research associate with the Kenya wetlands biodiversity research group (KENWEB), hosted by the National Museums of Kenya
You have just finished your Phd thesis on the Tana delta, in Kenya. Can you explain your research topic?
The research project was conducted within the Tana River delta, in Kenya. This delta is a lifeline for the local communities whose livelihoods are almost entirely dependent on the river’s ecosystem services. In addition, the delta provides an attractive habitat to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including a number of threatened species, making this ecosystem one of the high biodiversity areas in the eastern African region.
Similar to other global deltas, the Tana River delta is highly vulnerable and under risk of extensive degradation due to continued human impacts, at the global, regional and local scales. These combined impacts of sea-level rise, human alterations of river hydrology and local infrastructure ill-adapted to the dynamic nature of the landscape impacts are driving ecological, hydrological and geomorphological changes within the Tana river delta.
Mangrove destruction along the Tana River delta due to coastal erosion @Peter Ng'ang'a Gitau
Due to these challenges, this research aimed to highlight the current and long-term dynamics within the Tana River delta in response to sea level changes, river conditions, coastal processes and local human alterations. To achieve this, we implemented a multi-disciplinary approach, mobilizing various methodologies which included geomorphological, mangrove assessments, paleoecological analysis and management reviews. Through analysis of the combined impacts at the global, regional and local scale, this research highlights the evolution and increasing vulnerability of the Tana River delta under present sea level rise, and continued basin, and local river alterations.
Local communities trying to block sea water intrusion into their farms @Peter Ng'ang'a Gitau
What are your recommendations regarding these issues?
We suggest that management of the Tana River delta should take into account the dynamic nature of the landscape and focus on maintaining and improving Tana River flows and sediment recharge. Furthermore, we suggest the adoption of climate change adaptation measures to provide space for the natural retreat of the coastline and the mangrove to accommodate for the intruding sea water as well as the implementation of solutions jointly discussed between local population, scientists and decision-makers and adapted to the changing climatic conditions.
Why did you choose to study Geography?
My career background has mainly been focused on ecology and biodiversity conservation. However, over the years I have grown to appreciate the value of geographical information in ecological research. This is because, geographical methods offer additional data and view point that enables us to better understand the spatial changes that are occurring, and hence provide a holistic view of the causes and consequence of ecological and biodiversity alterations. Furthermore, current environmental research is moving towards a more multidisciplinary nature, that requires individual researches to have more knowledge in other research fields and how other study methods can be exploited to offer better solutions in improving biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration.
Collecting sediment samples from Tana river delta. From left to right, Komora, Caxton, Kennedy and Peter @Peter Ng'ang'a Gitau