Landscape Dynamics (landDX) an open-access spatial-temporal database for the Kenya-Tanzania borderlands

Aarhus University, SORALO and KWT digitized bomas, fences and agriculture in a systematic manner using available satellite imagery (see methods). All digitization was re-checked by supervisors, to ensure that no data had been missed, and was adjusted following quality control where and when required. All data were then manually checked by conservation practitioners knowledgeable of the study area. Both the spatial resolution and temporal sampling of the data may present limitations to its accuracy and usage.

Spatial resolution

For both the KWT and SORALO datasets collected using Google Earth, we used the latest Google Earth imagery. Additionally, for KWT’s dataset, we also used the latest Bing maps imagery. However, the spatial resolution of this Google Earth and Bing maps data varies. Resolution can be as high as ~0.5 m, while a few remaining areas still rely on Landsat Imagery with a resolution of 30 m. However, the quality of the Google Earth and Bing maps imagery was generally high enough across the study area to accurately delineate bomas, fencelines and agricultural land. Figures 3 and 4 provide examples of areas that would be digitized, with the boundaries of the boma and fence lines clearly visible.

The fencing data collected by Aarhus University used Landsat Imagery at 30 m resolution and smaller fences may be missing from the dataset as they are harder to distinguish. This is also true for wire fence (the predominant type of fencing around the Maasai Mara; Fig. 3C). Vegetation differences used to identify these fence lines may take some time to develop. Therefore, there may be an underestimate of the fences mapped, especially in those regions with high usage of wire fences.

It must be noted that images from Google Earth have an overall positional root mean squared error of 39.7 m, which may impact the interpretation of this dataset23. We believe that these errors are acceptable for our first attempt at collecting landscape-scale data, and will be refined over time with improved imagery and ground-truthing. Landsat data has a root mean squared error usually below the size of a pixel, with 90% of pixels having less than 12 m deviation (1

Temporal variation

The most likely discrepancies in data quality will arise from temporal variation in fencing placement, boma usage and placement, and agricultural change. Google Earth data were used for SORALO, using data available up to February 2020. Google Earth and Bing maps data were used for KWT, with data up to 2017. The weighted mean imagery date for SORALO (weighted by the area covered) was the 9th of September 2016 and ranged from 15th of December 2000 to 12th of February 2020 (Fig. 5). Where possible we have added a date-time stamp to the boma, agriculture and fencing dataset to best match the date the satellite imagery was acquired, or when it was collected on the ground. However, KWT and some SORALO data lack date attribute, the latter because no date stamp was found in Google Earth, and the former because no date was recorded for any data. The Aarhus University fencing data are from a Landsat Image from January 2016, and the MEP data are from on-the-ground collection. Our database is built so that as new or updated data become available, from both new satellite imagery and ground-based identification, the data layer can be adjusted (see below).

Livestock enclosure validation

We used data on the location of SORALO livestock enclosures from the Magadi region24 (collected using handheld GPS devices), to estimate the accuracy of our data collection. The SORALO ground-truthed database contains 668 bomas, which have been occupied at least once during 2014–2017. In the same area, our boma points database contains 573 bomas (85%) of which 41.2% (n = 275) are within 100 m of ground-truthed points and 87.7% (n = 586) are within 500 m of the ground-truthed points. These ground-truthed points may have inaccuracies from their data collection. Also, many livestock enclosures distant from ground-truthed points are newer than the ground-truthing dataset.

Agricultural land validation

We compared our agricultural data layer to a commonly used global open source data layer, the 2015 GFSAD30AFCE 30-m for Africa: Cropland Extent Product ( Our layer agreed with the Cropland Extent Product across 856 km2 of cropland. However, our layer demarcated 455 km2 (34.4% of the total extent) more agricultural land than was found in the 30 m Cropland Extent Product, because many small areas of subsistence farming had not been detected by this global layer. Additionally, the Cropland Extent Product contained 468 km2 (35.3% of the Cropland Extent Product) of agricultural extent not captured in our layer. Much of this was on the periphery of large continuous agricultural areas and appears inaccurately mapped by the global product.

Continual validation and improvement of database

Ongoing ground-truthing exercises by the Mara Elephant Project and other partners will improve the quality of the database over time, particularly the datasets on wire fencing in the Mara region. To do so the TerraChart app combined with a QuickCapture app (to validate fence lines and boma locations using aerial reconnaissance) are integrated into the ArcGIS online framework, and following validation both manually and using automated Python script, can be used to update the features collection database.

Additionally, any data currently held in the private domain can be easily integrated into this database, and made available to the public domain with approval. Linking these features using a parent ID allows for not only the addition of new features, but improved spatial accuracy of old features, and temporal changes to features to be captured.

This database will be continually improved over time. For example, current efforts from conservation partners in the region have resulted in large scale acquisition of high resolution, up-to-date, satellite imagery which will be further used to refine this database.

Source: Ecology -

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