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Climate change impact on vegetation cover (PhD Research Proposal)

Yousi Elnour Ya 1 / -  
Nov 14, 2011   #1
I am Yousif Elnour Yagoub, Lecturer at Faculty of Forestry, University of Khartium, Sudan. I am Ph.D. student at Faculty of Forestry, University of Khartium, Sudan, I need help obout my study ...

PhD Research Proposal
Climate Change Impact on Vegetation Cover as Related to Forest - Grassland Conversion in Sudan, Case of El Rawashda Forest, Gadaref State

By: Yousif Elnour Yagoub Babiker
Department of Forest Conservation and Protection, Faculty of Forestry, University of Khartoum, Sudan
Supervisor: Dr. Elnour Abdalla Elsiddig
Department of Forest Management, Faculty of Forestry, University of Khartoum, Sudan


Sudan is the largest country in Africa with an area approximately 2.5 million squire kilometers (extending between latitudes 3°and 22°N and longitudes 22° and 38°E). Sudan is distinguished by gently sloping plains derived from iron rocks in the southern parts, clay soil in the middle and sandy soil in the west and north. Also there are several mountains like Jebel Mara in the west, Imatong in the south and the series of the Red sea hills in the east.

The climate of Sudan is dominantly dry with few exceptions in some parts of the country. The annual rainfall ranges from less than 100 mm in the north to more than 1400 mm in the extreme south (Adam and Abdalla 2007). The dry lands in Sudan constitute about 94٪ of the total area of the country (Ayoub 1998; Mustafa 2007). This area is further divided into arid (30٪), semi-arid (20٪), savannah (40٪) and mountains and wetlands (10٪) depending on variation in annual rainfall and temperature. United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (1994) defined dry lands (arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid zones) as areas other than polar and sub-polar regions in which the ratio of annual precipitation to potential evapotranspiration (aridity index) falls within the range 0.05-0.65. Together, arid environments account for 47.4% of the earth's land mass spread geographically across all continents.

The climate change has been defined as a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity, which alters the composition of the global atmosphere, as well as natural climate variability observed over comparable time period (UNFCCC 1992). Moreover, changes in vegetation are attracting the attention of environmentalists and socio-economists. Such changes have been occurring rapidly especially in developing countries and their influence on environmental conditions may be as large as the effect of climatic change (Turner et al. 1995). Causes and concepts of climate change divided the theories that explain climate change phenomenon into three categories: extraterrestrial, terrestrial and oceanic changes and atmospheric changes (Williams and Balling 1996; Mustafa 2007).

Research justifications

Nowadays, climate changes have become the most critical environmental problems worldwide and most of environmental changes are related to the climate factors. To date, only limited studies have been performed to address this global problem. Agricultural activities are directly affecting the proportion of forest resources because any change in agricultural leads to unfair exploitation of the forests. During the last four decades progressive changes in the environment occurred as a consequence of forest and grassland conversion into agriculture. The phenomenon is defined as deforestation and forests degradation; both have their impact on forest and grassland cover. Dynamic change can be followed by use of remote sensing to evaluate extent and impacts in the form of forest and grassland biomass changes and species composition alteration and their reflection on range and nomadic coping system.

It is quite obvious that there is a change in the rates of temperature and rainfall. In Gadaref State, the ministry of agriculture documented estimates of agricultural lands annually cultivated however, the land area and the productivity were dramatically reduced and this was attributed to the effect of elevated temperature and variability in rainfall.

The vegetation cover is part of the ecosystem and as such it is affected by any change in the environment. It includes certain zone and species vulnerable to these changes, which might lead to their loss in productivity. Therefore, it is of high priority to assess the status of the vegetation cover changes over time in different ecosystems in selected dry lands, and is very essential and useful in planning processes for conservation land management.

Research problems

Dynamic rate of vegetation cover, deterioration and decline are very speedy during the previous short time. In Gadaref area large tracts of the forests and rangeland were converted to cultivation and this made these resources unable to meet fodder requirements of the grazing animals. On the other hand, the total forest area is reduced due to expansion in modern mechanized farming as a result of increasing human population, and an increasing demand for food. Also, over cutting of wood, to satisfy the local people needs for charcoal and other domestic uses to improve their economic income, has contributed to forest deterioration.

Current information on the status of vegetation cover and changes in its composition and structure are limited while the rate of climatic variations is affecting the planning of the management processes in forest reserves of which El Rawashda forest is a clear case. The nomads have no alternative for animal feeding except lopping the trees during the dry season and feeding on young regeneration during the rainy season. Adversely, the grazing livestock causes damage to the forest particularly the regeneration.

Research hypotheses

The present study is based on the assumption that changes in climate and other environmental factors have adversely affected vegetation cover.
Research objectives
The main objective of the present investigation is to evaluate the influence of climate change on vegetation cover with special emphasis on forests and grasslands. To realize this goal, a number of specific objectives were formulated as below.

1. to assess changes in the vegetation cover of El Rawashda forest and the surrounding area considering the period 1980 - 2010 in the light of the current status.

2. to identify the main indicators of climatic changes in relation to vegetation cover.

3. to investigate the impact of climate change on trees and plants used by farmers and nomads.

Material and Methods

Study area
El Rawashda Forest is one of the reserved forests of ELfashaga forest circ1e in Gadaref state. The total area of the forest is 124000 feddans. Soil is dark cracking clay. Rainfall is between 200-600 mm per annum. Classifying the area into semi-arid to savanna (FNC report 2009).

The vegetation of the area is largely dependent on rainfall. According to Harrison and Jackson (1958), Gadaref area lies in the low Rainfall woodland savannah belt on clay. Despite the high deforestation in El Rawashda natural forest reserve still vegetation cover is composed of great diversity of trees, shrubs and grasses. The dominant trees are: Acacia seyal var. seyal (Talih), covering 70 % of the total area of the forest, Acacia senegal (Hashab), Acacia millifera (kitir), large shrubs, Acacia nubica (laot) and Balanites aegyptiaca (Higlig). The dominant grasses are Cortolaria senegalensis (Safari), Ocimum basilicum (Rehan), Ipomea cardiosepala (Hantoot), Ipomea cordofanam (Taber), Solanuim dubium (Jubein), Sorghum halpens (Adar), Aristida mutabilis (Gaw), Cympopogn nervatus (Nal), Pennisetum spp. (Danab kadees) Tribulus terrestris (Derisa) and Phragmites spp (Boos).


This study consists of two types of data, primary and secondary data. The primary data involves climatic data on rainfall, temperature, relative humidity and winds for the study area during previous thirty years 1980 - 2010. These data will be treated with the aid of satellite images and NDVI values. Social survey (Questionnaire via face to face interviews and group discussions with farmers and nomads) will be used to support the data. Moreover, research documents, national and international relevant projects documents, related official records and annual reports will be used as supporting data.

Analysis of the impact of climate change aspects on yield and land loss will be conducted on the learns of the remote sensing tools and ground inventory in additive, assessment of periodic conversion of forest - grassland leading to assessment of environmental impacts.

The following tools will be used in study:
a. Remote sensing for land cover change.
b. Remote sensing and land degradation studies in Sudan.
c. Global Position System (GPS).
d. Geographic Information System (GIS).
e. ERDAS Imagine:
f. Remote sensed images of NOAA-AVHRR data.
g. Quadrates and transects.
h. Calipers.

Data analysis
Results will be statistically analyzed using ERDAS IMAGINE software for satellite images analysis and image display and analysis software (IDA). SPSS programme will be used to analyze the questionnaire data.

Working Plan and Research Time Table

(From June 2010 until May 2013)
Date Items ( Activities)
June 2010 Proposal preparation and registration for Ph.D
July 2010 Seminar of proposal presentation
August - December 2010 Reconnaissance Survey to study Area.
Vegetation cover inventories 1st season
January - May 2011
Reading in Germany about:
1- Climate change Environmental.
2- Remote sensing
July - October 2011 Writing a Drafts or Formulation of :
The Table of Contents, study Area, Introduction and Literature Review
November - December 2011 Vegetation cover inventories 2nd season.
Collection the questionnaire
January - June 2012
Collection of satellite images.
Data Analysis of:
1- Questionnaire.
2- Satellite images.
3- Vegetation cover inventories.
July - December 2012 Writing a Drafts of the:
1- Methodology.
2- Results & Discussion.
3- Conclusion & Recommendations.
4- References.
January - May 2013 1- Final Corrections of the Draft Thesis.
2- Reading and Revision.
3- submission of final thesis to examination committee
4- Defense of the thesis
* The activities in this plan able to changes according to situations of research works.

The Budget

Items Cost (SD)
Satellite images 3000
Analysis of the data 2000
Writing and printing of the thesis 1000
Different tools and equipments 1000
Collection of climate data in study area 1000
Total 8000

Adam, H.S and Abdalla.H.A. (2007).Metrology and Climatology, book. Desertification and desert cultivation studies institute (DADCSI) and UNESCO chair on desertification studies - University of Khartoum -University of Khartoum press.

Ayoub, A.T. (1998). Extent, severity and causative factors of land degradation in the Sudan. Journal of Arid Environments

FNC (2009). Report of Forest National Corporation in Gadaref state, and Kordufan State, Sudan.

Harrison M. N. and Jackson J. K. (1985) Ecological classification of the vegetation of the Sudan. For. Dept. (Sudan)?

Mustafa.M.A. (2007). Desertification processes. Desertification and desert cultivation studies institute (DADCSI) and UNESCO chair on desertification studies - University of Khartoum -University of Khartoum press.

Turner, B. L. I, Skole, D, Sanderson, S., Fischer, G., Fresco, L. and Leemans, R., 1995. Land-use and land cover change science and research plan. IGBP report No. 35 and HDP report No. 7.

UNFCCC. (1992). United Nation Convention of Climate Change, Rio De Ganero. Article І (definition).

Williams, M.A.J and Balling, R.C.Jr .1996 .Interactions of Desertification and climate, published by Arnold, 338 Euston Road, London,

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