Woody species diversity, structural composition, and human use of church forests in central Ethiopia

Woody species diversity, structural composition, and human use of church forests in central Ethiopia

https://ift.tt/3qPDnAX

Woody species diversity, structural composition, and human use of church forests in central Ethiopia

Highlights

Church forests are important refugia of woody species biodiversity in central Ethiopia.

Overall conservation status was higher in older church forests.

Church forests had woody species populations with good recruitment potential.

Few conservation activities, besides social taboos, were implemented.

Abstract

Church forests on the premises of Ethiopian Orthodox Churches have been recognized as refugia of tropical plant biodiversity within the predominantly agricultural landscape matrix. Understanding the species composition, population structure, and human use of trees in forested areas is crucial for sustainable conservation efforts. We investigated these features in mixed natural-planted church forests in central Ethiopia. Three forests associated with churches for 37–50 years were surveyed to assess: (i) the diversity and population characteristics of woody species depending on the age of the church forest, (ii) the use of trees by humans, and (iii) church forests’ contribution to the conservation of threatened species. Vegetation and ethnobotanical data were collected via forest inventory of 24 plots sized 0.04 ha and through a rapid rural appraisal conducted in 120 households. Thirty woody species, twenty-eight indigenous species, and two exotic species were identified. The three church forests were floristically different, with only four tree species in common. Most indices of diversity and population structural parameters of woody species were higher in older than in younger church forests, presumably due to a longer tradition of forest conservation. All church forests presented inverse J-shaped size-class distributions, indicative of populations with good recruitment potential. Woody species were mainly used for medicine, construction wood, and firewood. Eighteen threatened species were recorded; however, few conservation activities besides social taboos were revealed in the examined forests. Our findings highlight the role of church forests in the conservation of woody species diversity, and the need to strengthen current strategies to support long-term biodiversity conservation.

Keywords

Fisher’s α index

Hill numbers

Importance value index

Conservation status

Medicinal use

Threatened species

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Superforest

via ScienceDirect Publication: Forest Ecology and Management https://ift.tt/2zaqiu8

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