Research

Taita Research Station of the University of Helsinki facilitates and supports world-class research and teaching that contributes to the sustainable wellbeing of future generations and helps conserve biodiversity in the fragile ecosystems of the Taita Hills and surrounding areas. The research station promotes the mission of the University of Helsinki to produce research-based knowledge for the benefit of the whole world.

The station also plays an important role in the implementation of the Africa Program of the University of Helsinki. In addition, the research station promotes reaching the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations by fostering research impact; e.g. in climate change mitigation and adaptation, agricultural production, human health, water management and biodiversity. Capacity building and raising awareness in local communities and other stakeholders are also important activities of the station.

A preliminary evaluation report on the role of the research ecosystem of Taita Research Station in the local context was written by Adjunct Professor Mikko Rask in November 2018. 

The Government of Kenya has implemented strict measures to combat a surge in COVID19 infections. New lockdown orders may be given in a short notice, and can have an immediate effect on research activities and travel within the country as well as on arrivals and departures abroad. All travellers are therefore requested to follow the updated travel advisory and latest flight information of airlines regarding the coronavirus before and during their visit to Kenya.

On 26 March 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced an immediate ban on all inland travel in the capital Nairobi and out four other counties (Kajiado, Kiambu, Machakos and Nakuru). No road, rail or air transport will be permitted there. Additionally, the following measures were imposed:

  • International travel is permitted but subject to a negative coronavirus test.
  • In person, meetings are banned.
  • Curfew hours start at 20:00 until 04:00 a.m. in the five counties.
  • Alcohol sales in the areas has been banned and restaurants can only provide takeaway services.
  • Suspension of all face-to-face teaching, including universities, with the exception of students currently taking exams.
  • All sporting events are also suspended.

Due to these restrictions, we advise our visitors to fly in through the Mombasa Airport, and plan their itinerary in such a way that they arrive the research station during the daylight hours before the curfew starts.

Taita Research Station does not provide research permits or affiliation letters to students, researchers or other persons operating in the region. All foreign and Kenyan citizens planning to carry out research in the country must apply a research permit well in advance (processing the application may take many months) from NACOSTI (National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation). The application for a research permit must be submitted online. Further, an affiliation letter from a Kenyan university or research institute must be attached to the research permit application. Depending on the type of research work planned, additional permits from other organizations such as KWS, KFS or NEMA may be required. The researchers and research teams should also reserve time to go through an ethical assessment of their research project (mandatory for research involving human subjects and use of laboratory animals) before the permit will be granted.

The earlier one starts applying the research permit, the better.

The following doctoral dissertations have utilized the facilities and services of the Taita Research Station

Tuure, Juuso (2021). Dew Collection and Mulching as Measures to Improve Water Balance in Dryland Agriculture.

Abera, Temesgen (2020). Climatic impacts of vegetation dynamics in Eastern Africa.

Räsänen, Matti (2020). Precipitation controls on carbon and water relations in two African ecosystems.

Stam, Åsa (2020). Growth and resilience of non-vascular epiphytes in the Taita Hills, Kenya.

Väisänen, Elina (2020). Novel human protoparvoviruses : Epidemiology and clinical impact.

Adhikari, Hari (2019). Airborne and spaceborne remote sensing for assessment of forest structural attributes across tropical mosaic landscapes.

Dickens, Odeny (2019). Modelling biodiversity and carbon storage along the inhabited slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) and Taita Hills (Kenya). University of Nairobi, Department of Geospatial and Space Technology.

Ngowi, Benignus Valentine (2019). Potential Effects of Climate Change on Tritrophic Interactions in Crucifer Farming Systems of Mount Kilimanjaro and Taita Hills. Department of Entomology, University of Nairobi.

Vesala, Risto (2019). Diversity and ecology of Termitomyces symbionts in Macrotermes mounds of the Tsavo Ecosystem, Kenya.

Achola, Sarah (2018). The decline and fall of the coffee sector in Kenya: a case study of Murang'a and Taita Hills. Université Toulouse - Jean Jaurès, France.

Hohenthal, Johanna (2018). Local ecological knowledge in deteriorating water catchments – Reconsidering environmental histories and inclusive governance in the Taita Hills, Kenya.

Jyrkänkallio-Mikkola, Jenny (2018). Factors contributing to the spatial variation of stream communities in boreal and tropical regions.

Nthuni, Samuel (2018). Identification of tree species using airborne hyperspectral remote sensing data – case study of Ngangao forest in Taita Hills, Kenya. School of Engineering, University of Nairobi.

Piiroinen, Rami (2018). Airborne imaging spectroscopy in mapping of heterogeneous tropical land cover in Eastern Africa.

Odanga, James Jeconia (2017). Climate change induced-effect on biology and ecology of avocado insect pests along Altitudinal gradient of Taita Hills and mount Kilimanjaro. Department of Crop Protection, University of Nairobi.

Boitt, Mark (2016). Hyperspectral Remote Sensing for Cropland Assessment and Modeling for Agro-ecological Zones: A Case Study of Taita Hills, Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

Njeru, Crispus Mugambi (2016). Carbon stocks variability in Agro Ecosystems along an Altitudinal Gradient: a case study of Taita Hills, Kenya. Department of Plant Ecology, University of Nairobi.

Mwalusepo, Sizah (2015). Modelling the Impact of Climate Change to the Maize Stem Borer Communities and their Main Natural Enemies along Altitudinal Gradients in East Africa. University of Dar es Salaam.

Thijs, Koen (2015). Tree community dynamics and ecosystem function in a tropical landscape under deforestation pressure. KU Leuven.

Aben, Job (2014). Dispersal , connectivity and population viability of birds in a fragmented Afrotropical cloud forest. University of Antwerp.

Saarinen, Juha (2014). Ecometrics of large herbivorous land mammals in relation to climatic and environmental changes during the Pleistocene.

Steward, Peter Richard (2014). Ecosystem services and disservices in small-scale tropical agriculture. School of Biology, University of Leeds.

Callens, Tom (2012). Genetic and demographic signatures of population fragmentation in a cooperative breeding bird from south-east Kenya. University of Ghent, Belgium.

Omoro, Loice (2012). Impacts of indigenous and exotic tree species on ecosystem services – Case study on the mountain cloud forests of Taita Hills, Kenya.

Himberg, Nina (2011). Traditionally protected forests’ role within transforming natural resource management regimes in Taita Hills, Kenya.

Maeda, Eduardo (2011). Agricultural expansion and climate change in the Taita Hills, Kenya: an assessment of potential environmental impacts.

Clark, Barnaby (2010). Enhanced processing of SPOT multispectral satellite imagery for environmental monitoring and modelling.

Siljander, Mika (2010). Geospatial environmental data modelling applications using remote sensing, GIS and spatial statistics.

Gonsamo, Alemu (2009). Remote sensing of leaf area index: enhanced retrieval from close-range and remotely sensed optical observations.

Soini, Eija (2006). Livelihood, land use and environment interactions in the highlands of East Africa.

Ylhäisi, Jussi (2006). Traditionally Protected Forests and Sacred Forests of Zigua and Gweno Ethnic Groups in Tanzania.

Publications and other research outputs of the scientists and students affiliated with the University of Helsinki are available from the Tuhat database.

Below is a list of selected publications from research work that has utilized the facilities and services of the Taita Research Station:

Aben, J., Pellikka, P. and J.M.J. Travis (2018). A call for viewshed ecology: Advancing our understanding of the ecology of information through viewshed analysis. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 9 (3), 624–633. https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/2041-210X.12902

Abera, T.A., Heiskanen, J., Pellikka, P.K.E., Maeda, E.E. (2020). Impact of rainfall extremes on energy exchange and surface temperature anomalies across biomes in the Horn of Africa. Agriculture and Forest Meteorology 280, 107779. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2019.107779

Abera, T., Heiskanen, J., Pellikka, P., Adhikari, H., Maeda, E. (2020). Climatic impacts of bushland to cropland conversion in Eastern Africa. Science of the Total Environment 717, no. 137255, 137255 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137255

Abera, T.A., J. Heiskanen, P. Pellikka, M. Rautiainen & E.E. Maeda (2018). Clarifying the role of radiative mechanisms in the spatio-temporal changes of land surface temperature across the Horn of Africa. Remote Sensing of Environment 221: 210–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2018.11.024

Abera, T.A., J. Heiskanen, P. Pellikka & E.E. Maeda (2018). Rainfall–vegetation interaction regulates temperature anomalies during extreme dry events in the Horn of Africa. Global and Planetary Change 167: 35–45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2018.05.002

Adhikari, H., Valbuena, R., Pellikka, P., Heiskanen, J. (2020). Mapping forest structural heterogeneity of tropical montane forest remnants from airborne laser scanning and Landsat time series. Ecological Indicators 108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.105739

Amara, E., Adhikari, H., Heiskanen, J., Siljander, M., Munyao, M., Omondi, P., Pellikka, P. (2020). Aboveground Biomass Distribution in a Multi-Use Savannah Landscape in Southeastern Kenya: Impact of Land Use and Fences. Land 9(10), [384] https://doi.org/10.3390/land9100381

Andersson, M. and P. Minoia (2018). Ecological sanitation: A sustainable goal with local choices. A case study from Taita Hills, Kenya. In, Africa in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: A geographical perspective. Zulu, L. C. & D'Alessandro, C. (eds.). London: Routledge, s. 182–198.

Capitani, C., Garedew, W., Mitiku, A., Berecha, G., Hailu, B. T., Heiskanen, J., Hurskainen, P., Platts, P. J., Siljander, M., Pinard, F., Johansson, T. & R. Marchant (2018). Views from two mountains: exploring climate change impacts on traditional farming communities of Eastern Africa highlands through participatory scenarios. Sustainability Science, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-018-0622-x

Enroth, J., Pocs, T., He, X., Nyqvist, P., Stam, Å. C. S., Malombe, I., & Rikkinen, J. K. (2019). An annotated checklist of the bryophytes of Taita Hills region, Kenya. Acta Musei Silesiae. Scientiae Naturales, 68(1-2), 53–66. https://doi.org/10.2478/cszma-2019-0007

Forbes, K. M., Webala, P. W., Jääskeläinen, A. J., Abdurahman, S., Ogola, J., Masika, M. M., ... Sironen, T. (2019). Bombali Virus in Mops condylurus Bat, Kenya. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 25(5), 955-957. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2505.181666

Gonsamo, A.G., J-M. Walter, J.M. Chen, P. Pellikka & P. Schleppi (2018). A robust leaf area index algorithm accounting for the expected errors in gap fraction observations. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 248:197–204. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2017.09.024

Heiskanen, J., Adhikari, H., Piiroinen, R., Packalen, P., & Pellikka, P. K. E. (2019). Do airborne laser scanning biomass prediction models benefit from Landsat time series, hyperspectral data or forest classification in tropical mosaic landscapes? International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 81, 176-185. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jag.2019.05.017

Hohenthal, J. M., Räsänen, M. and P. Minoia (2018). Political ecology of asymmetric ecological knowledges: diverging views on the eucalyptus-water nexus in the Taita Hills, Kenya. Journal of Political Ecology 25 (1), 1–19.

Hurskainen, P. J., Adhikari, H. and H. Andreas (2018). Land-use / land cover mapping of the Kilimanjaro savanna ecosystem. In, Hemp, C., Katrin, B-G., Fischer, M. & Andreas, H. (eds.). The KiLi Project: Kilimanjaro ecosystems under global change: Linking biodiversity, biotic interactions and biogeochemical process. Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, p. 89–90.

Johansson, T. P., Heiskanen, J., Siljander, M., & Pellikka, P. K. E. (2019). Web map application to support spatial planning, decision-making and transition towards climate-smart landscapes in the Taita Hills, Kenya. In K. Koutsopoulos, R. de Miguel Gonzales, & K. Donert (Editors), Geospatial Challenges in the 21st Century (p. 173-187). Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04750-4_9

Johansson, T., Owidi, E., Ndonye, S., Achola, S., Garedew, W. and C. Capitani (2018). Community-based climate change adaptation action plans to support climate-resilient development in the Eastern African Highlands. In, Leal Filho, W. and D. Ayal (eds.). Handbook of Climate Change Resilience. Springer Nature. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-71025-9_38-1

Jyrkänkallio-Mikkola, J., M. Siljander, V. Heikinheimo, P. Pellikka & J. Soininen (2018). Tropical stream diatom communities – the importance of headwater streams for regional diversity. Ecological indicators 95:183–193. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.07.030

Kaasalainen, U.S., Hemp, A. and J.K. Rikkinen (2018). Lichen diversity on Mt. Kilimanjaro. In, Hemp, C., Böhning-Gaese, K., Fischer, M. & Hemp, A. (eds.). The KiLi Project: Kilimanjaro ecosystems under global change: Linking biodiversity, biotic interactions and biogeochemical ecosystem processes. Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, p. 74–75.

Kaistinen, H., Kivikko, T., Marttunen, E., Potinkara, M., Muukkonen, P. & M. Siljander (2018). Taita Taveta geodatabase. In, Tyystjärvi, V. & Muukkonen, P. (eds.). Creating, managing, and analysing geospatial data and databases in geographical themes. Helsinki: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Department of Geosciences and Geography, p. 58–80. (Department of Geosciences and Geography C; no. C14). Open access database developed by the MSc students of University of Helsinki https://taitagis.ttu.ac.ke/resource-downloads/

Masika, M. M., Korhonen, E. M., Smura, T., Uusitalo, R., Vapalahti, K., Mwaengo, D., Jääskeläinen, A. J., Anzala, O., Vapalahti, O., Huhtamo, E. (2020). Detection of dengue virus type 2 of Indian origin in acute febrile patients in rural Kenya. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 14(3), [0008099]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0008099

Munyao, M. N., Siljander, M., Johansson, T., Makokha, G. & Pellikka, P. (2020). Assessment of human–elephant conflicts in multifunctional landscapes of Taita Taveta County, Kenya. Global Ecology and Conservation 24 , e01382 . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e01382

Mwalusepo, S., Massawe, E. S., Johansson, T., Abdel-Rahman, E., Gathara, M., Njuguna, E., Calatayud, P. A., James, O. J., Landmann, T. and B.P. Le Ru (2018). Modelling the distributions of maize stem borers at local scale in East African mountain gradients using climatic and edaphic variables. African Entomology 26, (2) 458–470. https://doi.org/10.4001/003.026.0458

Odanga, J. J., Mohamed, S., Nyankanga, R., Olubayo, F., Johansson, T., Ekesi, S. (2020). Temporal Population Patterns of Oriental Fruit Flies and False Codling Moths within Smallholder Avocado Orchards in Southeastern Kenya and Northeastern Tanzania. Int. J. Fruit Sci. https://doi.org/10.1080/15538362.2020.1746728 

Odeny, D., Karanja, F., Mwachala, G., Pellikka. P. and R. Marchant (2018). Comparison and Prediction of the above Ground Carbon Storage in Croplands on the Inhabited Slopes on Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) and the Taita Hills (Kenya). Journal of Geographic Information System 10 (4), 415–438. https://doi.org/10.4236/jgis.2018.104022

Pellikka, P.K.E., Heikinheimo, V., Hietanen, J., Schäfer, E., Siljander, M. and J. Heiskanen (2018). Impact of land cover change on aboveground carbon stocks in Afromontane landscape in Kenya. Applied Geography 94 (5), 178–189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2018.03.017

Pfeifer, M., Gonsamo, A., Woodgate, W., Cayuela, L., Marshall, A.R., Ledo, A., Paine, T.C.E., Marchant, R., Burt, A., Calders, K., Courtney-Mustaphi, C., Cuni-Sanchez, A., Deere, N.J., Denu, D., Gonzalez de Tanago, J., Hayward, R., Lau, A., Macía, M.J., Olivier, P.I., Pellikka, P., Seki, H., Shirima, D., Trevithick, R., Wedeux, B., Wheeler, C., Munishi, P.K.T., Martin, T., Mustari A. and P. J. Platts (2018). Tropical forest canopies and their relationships with climate and disturbance: results from a global dataset of consistent field-based measurements. Forest Ecosystems 5 (7). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40663-017-0118-7

Piiroinen, R., Fassnacht, F.E., Heiskanen, J., Maeda, E., Mack, B. and P. Pellikka (2018). Invasive tree species detection in the Eastern Arc Mountains biodiversity hotspot using one class classification. Remote Sensing of Environment 218, 119–131. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0034425718304292?via%3Dihub

Rosti, H., Rikkinen, J., Pellikka, P., Bearder, S., Mwamodenyi, J. M. (2020). Taita Mountain dwarf galago is extant in the Taita Hills of Kenya. Oryx 54(2), 152–153. https://doi.org/10.1017/S003060531900142X 

Räsänen, M., Merbold, L., Vakkari, V., Aurela, M., Laakso, L., Beukes, P., Zyl, P. V., Josipovic, M., Feig, G., Pellikka, P., Rinne, J. and Katul, G. G. (2020). Root-zone soil moisture variability across African savannas: From pulsed rainfall to landcover switches. Ecohydrology 13(5), [2213]. https://doi.org/10.1002/eco.2213

Räsänen, M. M. Chung, M. Katurji, P. Pellikka, J. Rinne & G.G. Katul (2018). Similarity in fog and rainfall intermittancy. Geophysical Research Letters 45(19). https://doi.org/10.1029/2018GL078837

Siljander, M., Kuronen, T., Johansson, T., Munayo, M.N., Pellikka, P.K.E. (2020). Primates on the farm – spatial patterns of human–wildlife conflict in forest-agricultural landscape mosaic in Taita Hills, Kenya. Appl. Geogr. 117 (102185) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2020.102185

Siljander, M., Adero, N., Gitau, F., Nyambu, E. (2020). Land use/land cover classification for the iron mining site of Kishushe, Kenya: A feasibility study of traditional and machine learning algorithms. African Journal of Mining, Entrepreneurship and Natural Resource Management 1(2), 115–124. http://www.ajmenrm.ttu.ac.ke

Suija, A., Kaasalainen, U.S., Kirika, P. and J.K. Rikkinen (2018). Taitaia, a novel lichenicolous fungus in tropical montane forests in Kenya (East Africa). Lichenologist 50 (2), 173–184. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0024282918000026

Stam, Å. C. S., Anttila, J., Pellikka, P. K. E., Rikkinen, J. K. (2020). Sensitivity of tropical pendant bryophytes: results from a translocation experiment along an elevation gradient. Annales Botanici Fennici 57(1-3), 71–81. https://doi.org/10.5735/085.057.0110

Teucher, M. C., Schmitt, B., Wiese, A., Apfelbeck, B., Maghenda, M., Pellikka, P., Lens, L., Habel, C.C. (2020). Behind the fog: Forest degradation despite logging bans in an East Africa cloud forest. Global Ecology and Conservation 22, e01024. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e01024

Tuure, J., Korpela, A., Hautala, M., Rautkoski, H., Hakojarvi, M., Mikkola, H., Duplissy, J., Pellikka, P., Petaja, T., Kulmala, M., Alakukku, L. (2020). Comparing plastic foils for dew collection: Preparatory laboratory-scale method and field experiment in Kenya. Biosystems Engineering 196, 145–158. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biosystemseng.2020.05.016

Tuure, J., Korpela, A., Hautala, M., Hakojärvi, M., Mikkola, H., Räsänen, M., Duplissy, J., Pellikka, P., Petäjä, T., Kulmala, M., Alakukku, L. (2019). Comparison of surface foil materials and dew collectors location in an arid area: a one-year field experiment in Kenya. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 276–277, 107613. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2019.06.012

Uusitalo, R. J., Siljander, M., Culverwell, C. L., Mutai, N., Forbes, K. M., Vapalahti, O., & Pellikka, P. K. E. (2019). Predictive mapping of mosquito distribution based on environmental and anthropogenic factors in Taita Hills, Kenya. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 76, 84-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jag.2018.11.004

Vesala, R., Arppe, L. & Rikkinen, J. (2019). Caste-specific nutritional differences define carbon and nitrogen fluxes within symbiotic food webs in African termite mounds. Sci Rep 9, 16698. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-53153-x

Wachiye, S., Merbold, L., Vesala, T., Rinne, J., Rasanen, M., Leitner, S., Pellikka, P. (2020). Soil greenhouse gas emissions under different land-use types in savanna ecosystems of Kenya. Biogeosciences 17(7), 2149–2167. https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-17-2149-2020

Zhu, Y., Merbold, L., Leitner, S., Pelster, D. E., Okoma, S. A., Ngetich, F., Onyango, A. A., Pellikka, P., Butterbach-Bahl, K. (2020). The effects of climate on decomposition of cattle, sheep and goat manure in Kenyan tropical pastures. Plant and Soil 451(1-2), 325–343. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-020-04528-x