Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2016, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (1): 102-124.doi: 10.1007/s11442-016-1257-4

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatially distributed modelling and mapping of soil organic carbon and total nitrogen stocks in the Eastern Mau Forest Reserve, Kenya

WERE Kennedy1,2(), Ram SINGH Bal3, Bjarne DICK Øystein1   

  1. 1. Department of Mathematical Sciences and Technology, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, P.O. Box 5003, NO-1432, ?s, Norway
    2. Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, Kenya Soil Survey, P.O. Box 14733-00800, Nairobi, Kenya
    3. Department of Environmental Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, P.O. Box 5003, NO-1432, ?s, Norway
  • Received:2015-02-18 Accepted:2015-06-12 Online:2016-01-25 Published:2016-01-25
  • About author:

    Author: Kennedy Were, PhD, specialized in application of GIS and remote sensing techniques in environmental research. E-mail:


Detailed knowledge about the estimates and spatial patterns of soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (TN) stocks is fundamental for sustainable land management and climate change mitigation. This study aimed at: (1) mapping the spatial patterns, and (2) quantifying SOC and TN stocks to 30 cm depth in the Eastern Mau Forest Reserve using field, remote sensing, geographical information systems (GIS), and statistical modelling approaches. This is a critical ecosystem offering essential services, but its sustainability is threatened by deforestation and degradation. Results revealed that elevation, silt content, TN concentration, and Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager band 11 explained 72% of the variability in SOC stocks, while the same factors (except silt content) explained 71% of the variability in TN stocks. The results further showed that soil properties, particularly TN and SOC concentrations, were more important than that other environmental factors in controlling the observed patterns of SOC and TN stocks, respectively. Forests stored the highest amounts of SOC and TN (3.78 Tg C and 0.38 Tg N) followed by croplands (2.46 Tg C and 0.25 Tg N) and grasslands (0.57 Tg C and 0.06 Tg N). Overall, the Eastern Mau Forest Reserve stored approximately 6.81 Tg C and 0.69 Tg N. The highest estimates of SOC and TN stocks (hotspots) occurred on the western and northwestern parts where forests dominated, while the lowest estimates (coldspots) occurred on the eastern side where croplands had been established. Therefore, the hotspots need policies that promote conservation, while the coldspots need those that support accumulation of SOC and TN stocks.

Key words: soil organic carbon, total nitrogen, carbon sequestration, climate change, digital soil mapping, Eastern Mau