Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2022

Department 1

Environmental Studies


Protected areas (PAs) are crucial to achieving effective conservation goals and mitigate the loss of biodiversity. I investigated the following research questions: How does human pressure threaten PAs in East Africa? Is human pressure associated with the factors of country, ecosystem characteristics, size, or governance type of a PA? For this study, I used a combination of a GIS analysis and case studies to evaluate human pressure on PAs in Tanzania and Kenya. For the GIS analysis, I used 589 terrestrial PAs from the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). Within each PA, I summarized the landform, landcover, moisture level, governance, size, and human impact. Human impact was measured using two datasets: the Temporal Human Pressure Index (THPI) to evaluate the change in human pressure from 1990 to 2010, and the Global Human Modification (GHM) dataset to evaluate the state of human pressure in 2016. I used summary statistics, scatterplots and boxplots to compare human pressure in PAs to the governance, size, and ecosystem characteristics. For the case study analysis, I focused on four different PAs in Tanzania and Kenya: Randilen Wildlife Management Area, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park, and Arabuko Sokoke Forest. I chose these specific areas because I visited them in Spring 2021, and they represent a variety of types and sizes of PAs. The case studies showed human experiences that were not evident from the GIS analysis. Overall, I identified that Kenya had more human pressure in its PAs than Tanzania. I also observed the PAs that had not reported a governance type had the highest increase in human pressure as well as the greatest state of pressure. Furthermore, I found that smaller PAs had more variability in human pressure than larger sized PAs and higher average human pressure. The case studies reinforced the findings of the GIS analysis. Randilen WMA and Arabuko Sokoke Forest, both characterized by small size and “Not Reported” governance type, had the highest increase in human pressure and impact in the current state of the case studies. These case studies offer a perspective on the relationships between managing organizations and the community, which is crucial to maintaining proper protection and reducing human pressure. On the other hand, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area both had high increasing pressure over time but a low average human pressure in 2016. These are some of the strictest PAs in Tanzania, and population growth has made it difficult to improve the welfare of the surrounding regions. Based on my results, I suggest that PAs should consider expanding their size, have effective collaboration between all stakeholders to promote the economic benefits of conservation to local communities, include education programs about the ecosystem as well as direct funding effectively to employ more staff to enforce regulations and proper supporting infrastructure within the PA.


Written for ES 460: Individualized Study-Research (Honors Thesis)

Research supported by the Millard E. Gladfelter '25 Prize