The Lake Naivasha Basin in Kenya has experienced significant land use cover changes (LUCC) that has been hypothesized to have altered the hydrological regime in recent decades. While it is generally recognized that LUCC will impact evapotranspiration (ET), the precise nature of such impact is not very well understood. This paper describes how land use conversions among grassland and croplands have influenced ET in the Lake Naivasha Basin for the period 2003 to 2012. MODIS data products were used in combination with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) data sets to model ET using the Surface Energy Balance System (SEBS). The results indicate that conversions from grassland to cropland accounted for increases in ET of up to 12% while conversion from cropland back to grasslands (abandonment) reduced ET by ~4%. This suggests that recently cultivated agricultural lands could increase local water demands, while abandonment of the farms could decrease the water loss and eventually increase the water availability. Also, recovery of ET following re-conversion from cropland to grassland might be impeded due to delayed recovery of soil properties since parts of the catchment are continuously being transformed with no ample time given for soil recovery. The annual ET over the 10 years shows an estimated decline from 724 mm to 650 mm (~10%). This decline is largely explained by a reduction in net radiation, an increase in actual vapour pressure whose net effect also led to decrease in the surface-air temperature difference. These findings suggest that in order to better understand LUCC effects on water resources of Lake Naivasha, it is important to take into account the effect of LUCC and climate because large scale changes of vegetation type from grassland to cropland substantially will increase evapotranspiration with implications on the water balance.
- Agricultural abandonment
- Remote sensing