With her research Mercy Ojoyi has won several awards in conservation, such as the Conservation Leadership Programme Award in 2006, UK; Alcoa Foundation Conservation and Sustainability Award USA in 2007; WWF EFN Awards USA in 2008. In 2011, she was nominated for the Africa Initiative programme by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in collaboration with the University of Guelph, Canada  to work on climate change and policy development on climate change impacts facing ecosystems and communities in Eastern Africa.

She is currently working on the Alexander von Humboldt International Climate Protection Programme, based at the University of Bonn, Centre for Remote Sensing working with the Remote Sensing Research Group at the Geography department. She is also working in collaboration with the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation hosted by the Natural Resource Department in the Netherlands.

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Portrait: Mery Ojoyi

The  regional-to-local dynamics of climate and impacts on biodiversity in East Africa

Ongoing dissertation

Geography department, Centre for Remote Sensing, University of Bonn


Bonn Sustainability Portal: What is your research all about?

Africa is one of the most vulnerable continent to climate variability and change because of its inability to adapt. This is exacerbated by changing activities within the ecosystem influenced by anthropogenic factors and other external factors. Pressure on natural ecosystems such as deforestation has been recognized as a major factor contributing to climate change through its main influence on surface albedo and its disruption of regional and global balance of carbon.

Most natural ecosystems remain under increasing pressure globally. Ecosystems in East Africa remain susceptible to intensive anthropogenic activities such as deforestation. The region experiences major alterations from human-led activities which poses to be a great threat to conservation of biodiversity and natural ecosystem functioning. This includes biodiversity losses, and cover changes. The situation is likely to worsen if no urgent intervention is taken to control the situation. For effective management of conservation threats, studies on strategic land use planning, appropriate management and governance remain a priority for future conservation of similar threatened and vulnerable ecosystems.

Human induced processes remain to be a threat to biodiversity conservation, the biophysical and biological ecosystem processes. They alters species composition and distribution patterns; which affects their functioning. However, very few studies in East Africa have taken into account effects of spatial elements in assessing such factors. A better understanding of patterns regarding ecosystem change is vital for planning, conservation and management of vulnerable habitats. Remote sensing is one such technique, which provides such a great opportunity of quantifying and assessing the nature and extent of change in the landscape. Conservationists, resource planners and managers need to integrate a new generation of knowledge and techniques which can further offer effective planning and management guidance to inhibit further loss of vulnerable ecosystems. This project draws on a general scope of regional to local dynamics of climate, impacts on natural ecosystems by applying remote sensing data to address emerging complex ecological questions.

Would you like to highlight certain aspects (e.g. have you published a book or won a price)?

Indeed, yes. We have drafted 2 papers out of the Alexander von Humboldt Project together with Prof. Dr. Gunter Menz from University of Bonn. We intend to submit to high impact factor journals and already working on other papers as well. From this work, we show case some useful findings which researchers and implementation agencies can factor especially in reduction of climate risks from the regional to local scales. From the research, we develop useful scenarios which can be applied by agencies and researchers in East Africa and other parts of the world facing similar challenges.

Which practical use does your work have?

Generally, ecosystem dynamics, impacts on biodiversity including anthropogenic and climatic factors are quantified using high-resolution remote sensing and assessment of potential threats and identify tangible points of action. With spatial analysis and image processing, changes in both available resources’ quantity and quality can be discerned. It enables recognition of changes to patterns over large areas from diverse scales which cannot be easily perceived from ground based methods. The outcome is usually effective in further improvement of understanding on changes in relation to both human and environmental interactions

This project ultimately helps advance the current knowledge in planning measures for action in the areas affected in East Africa. Furthermore it will assist the prioritization of potential scenarios for biodiversity conservation and climate change protection that remains to be a gap in most African states.

What is your personal recommendation for acting sustainable in daily life?

I would recommend the need for a deeper understanding of the physical processes which affect the global climate system and the evolution of the scientific and socio-economic narratives. The importance of grasping the scientific basis of research findings of a discernible ‘human influence’ on the global climate system and what this portends for society at large especially at local scales.

Which topic/subject would require more research to be done?

Addressing alterations in any given system requires an understanding of its functions and any likely shifts. However, from the IPCC (2007) and my preliminary research findings, there is a gap in interpretation of results from climate models, natural variability and linkages between biophysical and human interactions. This is important particularly in providing confidence based on results obtained from these climate change models. This can complement useful steps in promoting resilience against climatic perturbations.

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