The Mpala plot is located on the Laikipia Plateau in north central Kenya, just north of the equator, and northwest of Mt. Kenya, in a savanna ecosystem. The vegetation is dominated by legumes, particularly of the genus Acacia. The abundant trees are Acacia drepanolobium, A. nilotica, A. mellifera. Scattered individuals of Combretum molle and Boscia sp. are also present. The herbaceous vegetation consists of annual and perennial grasses such as Pennisetum mezienum, Brachiaria lachnantha, Pennisetum stramineum (Maasai grass) and Lintonia nutans and forbs. Topographically, the plot to the south is fairly flat at an elevation of 1800 m above sea level, then descends northward to a lowest point at 1660 m a.s.l. The plot traverses two soil formations, black cotton soil and red soil, with a distinct area of transitional soils between them.
The Mpala area is home to many of Africa’s distinctive large mammals, including elephant, lion, giraffe, Cape buffalos, eland, impala, hyena, zebra, and several types of antelopes among others, living side by side with livestock.
The impacts of land-use and climate change are predicted to have a profound effect on the ecosystem and the biodiversity at Mpala. The monitoring of the 120-ha plot at Mpala will provide short- and long-term data on the dynamics of the vegetation of an ecosystem which undergoes grazing by both livestock and wildlife.