Laura A. Kurpiers and DeeAnn M. Reeder (Bucknell University)
South Sudan, a country rich in biodiversity, is ecologically unique because it is a meeting point for the floras and faunas of East and West Africa. However, little research and conservation efforts have been placed here because of a long history of civil war lasting from 1957-1972 and 1983-2005. Increasing anthropogenic factors and landcover changes are considered to be the leading factor of biodiversity loss worldwide. In this presentation we explore the use of GIS and remote sensing methodologies for the estimation of species richness and distribution in relation to landcover change in South Sudan from 1985-2011. Remotely sensed multispectral satellite imagery from NASA’s Landsat program was used with various image analysis tools to visualize and quantify land cover change over time. Geospatial indices, such as Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which are used for biodiversity assessment and monitoring, were computed in an effort to understand how and where landcover has changed, and might change in the future. GIS data from various international conservation groups (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, NatureServe, and BirdLife International) were used to map areas with high levels of biodiversity. We interpret these habitat-level changes in the context of areas with high species richness in order to estimate how biodiversity may be affected by future habitat changes. Understanding biodiversity hot-spots and landcover change in relation to current protected nature reserves can help prioritize conservation efforts while painting a picture of historical conditions and help predict future scenarios.