Vegetation Resilience under Increasing Drought Conditions in Northern Tanzania

Steye L. Verhoeve, Tamara Keijzer, Rehema Kaitila, Juma Wickama, Geert Sterk

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East Africa is comprised of many semi-arid lands that are characterized by insufficient rainfall and the frequent occurrence of droughts. Drought, overgrazing and other impacts due to human activity may cause a decline in vegetation cover, which may result in land degradation. This study aimed to assess drought occurrence, vegetation cover changes and vegetation resilience in the Monduli and Longido districts in northern Tanzania. Satellite-derived data of rainfall, temperature and vegetation cover were used. Monthly precipitation (CenTrends v1.0 extended with CHIRPS2.0) and monthly mean temperatures (CRU TS4.03) were collected for the period of 1940–2020. Eight-day maximum value composite data of the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) (NOAA CDR—AVHRR) were obtained for the period of 1981–2020. Based on the meteorological data, trends in rainfall, temperature and drought were determined. The NDVI data were used to determine changes in vegetation cover and vegetation resilience related to the occurrence of drought. Rainfall did not significantly change over the period of 1940–2020, but mean monthly temperatures increased by 1.06C. The higher temperatures resulted in more frequent and prolonged droughts due to higher potential evapotranspiration rates. Vegetation cover declined by 9.7% between 1981 and 2020, which is lower than reported in several other studies, and most likely caused by the enhanced droughts. Vegetation resilience on the other hand is still high, meaning that a dry season or year resulted in lower vegetation cover, but a quick recovery was observed during the next normal or above-normal rainy season. It is concluded that despite the overall decline in vegetation cover, the changes have not been as dramatic as earlier reported, and that vegetation resilience is good in the study area. However, climate change predictions for the area suggest the occurrence of more droughts, which might lead to further vegetation cover decline and possibly a shift in vegetation species to more drought-prone species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4592
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021


  • Drought adaptation
  • Drought impacts
  • Drought index
  • Drought vulnerability
  • Land degradation
  • NDVI
  • Standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index
  • Vegetation resilience


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