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PEI Researchers Combat Climate Change through Land Rehabilitation and Carbon Sequestration in Northern Kenya

November 29, 2010                       

PRINCETON, N.J. - Researchers from Princeton University, in partnership with scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of California, Davis, and University of Nairobi in Kenya, are launching a research project that will ultimately help improve the livelihoods of pastoralists in the Horn of Africa region.

The project, “A Cost-Effectiveness Framework for Landscape Rehabilitation and Carbon Sequestration in North Kenya,” or CARBON, is led by Daniel Rubenstein, a professor in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Corinna Riginos, a post-doctoral lecturer in the same department. Princeton scientists are working on this project with  Jayne Belnap, with the U.S. Geological Survey; Jeff Herrick, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service; Truman Young, Professor, Department of Plan Sciences, University of California at Davis; and Jesse Njoka, professor and principal investigator for the Center for Sustainable Drylands program at the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Riginos, Rubenstein, and collaborators will be working in northern Kenya, an area with great potential for carbon sequestration that is also highly degraded due to overgrazing. The team aims to increase the health, resilience, productivity and carbon sequestration potential of rangelands in this region by arresting and reversing degradation using low-tech, cost-effective means. The team plans to test different strategies for assessing, maintaining and improving rangeland health that draw on local, traditional knowledge from pastoral communities and land managers.

“Global climate change presents dual challenges—how to both mitigate and adapt to rising carbon dioxide levels and associated environmental changes. The emerging demand for greater carbon sequestration presents a new opportunity for mitigation, adaptation, and poverty alleviation in the dryland regions of the developing world,” Riginos said.

The future of traditional livestock herding in Kenya depends on healthy rangelands. In addition, healthy rangelands would serve as a significant carbon sink, helping to mitigate global climate change impacts.

“Rehabilitating these rangelands may be essential for preventing additional losses of carbon,” explained Riginos, “Moreover, because many of Africa’s rangeland regions are already moderately to severely degraded, rehabilitating these areas may be the only way to increase carbon storage and improve rural livelihoods.”

The CARBON Project is linked to Princeton’s Grand Challenges Program's ongoing work in Kenya. Grand Challenges supports research and teaching that focuses on sustainable development, with an aim to provide solutions that simultaneously improve livelihoods while sustaining biodiversity through better natural resource management. The CARBON Project builds on Grand Challenges research aimed at understanding how different grazing practices accelerate rangeland degradation or promote recovery in northern Kenya

This project is funded through the Livestock-Climate Change Collaborative Research Support Program, established in May 2010 through a $15 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development awarded to Colorado State University’s Animal Population Health Institute and the university’s Institute for Livestock and the Environment. The goal of the program is to pursue interdisciplinary research, education and outreach in semi-arid regions to better the lives and livelihoods of small-scale livestock producers by developing strategies to help them cope with the impacts of climate change. For more information, visit

Additional information: Daniel Rubenstein, Corinna Riginos, Princeton University's Grand Challenges Program, Livestock-Climate Change Collaborative Research Support Program.