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Utrecht University (2021)

Deforestation and forest fragmentation in Southwestern Ethiopia from 1973 to 2019

Oostdijk, S.C.J.

Titre : Deforestation and forest fragmentation in Southwestern Ethiopia from 1973 to 2019

Auteur : Oostdijk, S.C.J.

Université de soutenance : Utrecht University

Grade : Master Thesis 2021

Résumé
As biodiversity and biodiversity hotspots worldwide are threatened by the effects of land use, such as habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, it is important to understand the ongoing processes and their effect on the environment. It is especially important to gain a better understanding of deforestation and forest fragmentation patterns in biodiversity hotspots, such as the Afromontane mountains in Southwestern Ethiopia, and how this might impact large mammals. This research aimed to identify deforestation and forest fragmentation in Southwestern Ethiopia from 1973-2019 and what recommendations can be given in the context of large mammal conservation. This was done creating forest cover maps and analysing those for deforestation and forest fragmentation patterns. Results showed that forest cover has been decreasing from 1973 to 2019, but during the last decade (2010- 2019), the forest cover seemed to increase again. Deforestation was found mainly along the forest edges and among smaller forest patches between agricultural fields. Only the core area index showed to have a significant decreasing trend, indicating that the forest interior is decreasing. After the establishment of the Yayu Biosphere Reserve, forest cover increased and the core area remained similar. Reforestation was found at the forest edges while deforestation occurred mainly among the small forest patches. It is important to improve landscape connectivity and to halt deforestation as there is no certainty that recent reforestation efforts will have an immediate positive effect on biodiversity. This can be done by the implementation of land sharing and sparing zones in the area and the reconnection of forest patches by reforesting disconnected or nearly disconnected large forest patches. Moreover, an effort needs to be made to protect the small forest patches in the agricultural landscape as these patches are important for landscape connectivity and ecosystem services. This research identified patterns of deforestation and forest fragmentation from the 1970s to the present in the Afromontane mountains in Ethiopia, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Moreover, it adds to the empirical evidence to the contribution of biosphere reserves in the contribution to nature conservation. In addition, the scripts that were created in this study could be reused for similar research in the future, reducing the time needed to create forest cover maps and their analysis.

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