The first Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO) plot was established in 1980 on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Over the years, the ForestGEO program has expanded from wet to dry tropics and into temperate areas. In 2009, Mpala became the 41st site chosen to be part of ForestGEO.

Currently, ForestGEO spans 29 countries, focused on understanding the development and maintenance of biodiversity and our ability to evaluate and respond to the impacts of global climate change. With the establishment of the Mpala Plot, the ForestGEO program is making its first foray into savanna ecosystems.

The Mpala plot is unique in other ways. At 120 ha, it is the largest ForestGEO plot (most are 50 ha or less), and it is floristically simple (68 plant species have been identified whereas other ForestGEO plots can hold up to 450 species). The impacts of land-use and climate change are predicted to have a profound effect on the ecosystem and the biodiversity at Mpala. The plot has already provided both short- and long-term data on the dynamics of the vegetation of an ecosystem which undergoes grazing by both livestock and wildlife.

The ForestGEO team began its next round of tree surveys in January 2024.

Institutions: Smithsonian Institute, USA, and National Museums of Kenya, Kenya

Primary Investigators: Dr David Kenfack (STRI) & Dr Paul Musili (NMK)

Project Managers: Festus Muia & Dr. Duncan Kimuyu

Project Start: 2011