The Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Division of the Kenya Wildlife Service aims to direct and implement biodiversity research and monitoring activities in order to provide a scientific and technical base for good management and conservation practices to protect Kenya’s invaluable biodiversity.
Kisite, like all other Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), is set aside by law to protect and conserve the marine and coastal biodiversity for posterity. The park and reserve have critical habitats which include coral reefs, sea grass and sea grass beds, mangrove forests, and coral rag forests, all of which are home to diverse organisms. In addition to its varied biodiversity Kisite is home to special and endemic species such as the dugong and sea turtles (endangered species), dolphins which are a threatened species, and the coconut crab which in Kenya is endemic to Kisite-Mpunguti.
Kisite is the most highly visited marine park in Kenya, which translates to a high level of anthropogenic negative impacts to this critical habitat and these special marine creatures. Therefore research and monitoring need to be in place to give first hand information to management in order to strike a balance between what humans need and want and what nature needs. Monitoring will also help to establish population trends of those marine species which are rare, threatened, vulnerable, endemic and/or endangered.
Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park and Reserve is one of Kenya’s pristine parks. The low levels of pollution mean that data collected from this kind of environment can yield good baseline data or serve as a control in relation to other more polluted ecosystems. Research and management together have identified the major problems that face Kisite-Mpunguti and so can put in place mitigation measures and highlight some of the priority areas for research and monitoring.
Research is therefore meant to do the following:-
- Conduct regular and systematic collection of data from within and outside the marine park in order to monitor environmental change
- Analyse data & advise management on an appropriate course of action
- Monitor trends of rare, unique, and endangered species
- Collect and store data for future reference and decision-making
Past research highlights
Much research work has been undertaken within Kisite-Mpunguti and its environs. Many coastal research organizations such as CORDIO East Africa, WCS, CRCP, KEMFRI, and KWS have undertaken research activities within Marine Protected Areas as well as outside the Marine Protected Areas. Some of the previous research work includes: research on coral resilience, research on coral recruitment, biodiversity assessment and resource inventories, socio-economic surveys, research on fishing gear and particularly on gated traps, research on sea grasses, mangrove surveys.
- Biannual monitoring of benthic cover, invertebrates and fish
- Quantitative analysis of fish species
- Cetaceans research
- Turtle surveys: in-water survey and monitoring of nesting sites
- Primate survey within coastal coral rag forest
- Coral rag forest regeneration survey
Priorities for future research
Some of the priority areas for research in the Kisite-Mpunguiti MPA are:
· Impact of tourism on the marine ecosystem in the Park
· The carrying capacity of the park (tourists in the Park and fishermen in the Reserve)
· An inventory of species in the Park and Reserve (plants and animals)
· Information for park planning (spawning areas, degraded areas etc- to be used for zoning purposes)
· Terrestrial wildlife distribution and movement pattern in the Msambweni district (for Problem Animal Control planning)
· Analysis of PAC data and species specific (or area specific) long-term mitigation measures
· For the purpose of development of tourism products (unique species) we would like to know: coconut crab ecology and behaviour on Mpunguti Island; marine mammals’ distribution and movement patterns (dolphins, dugongs, whales etc)
· Identification of areas that can be set up as community marine conservancies (for replication of MPAs for conservation purposes but also as community revenue-generating projects)
· Identification and technical advice on viable community conservation enterprise projects e.g. mariculture etc
· Visitor satisfaction surveys
Volunteering/ attachments/ internship: KWS makes provision for all of these. Check it out here. In addition, Global Vision International (GVI) has a base on Wasini Island. Volunteers work on Wasini, in the Marine Park, and around Shimoni in various projects such as dolphin research, colobus monkey research, and teaching environmental education in local schools. Look here for more information. GVI has sending bases in the UK, Australia and the UK.