Title

Tree community composition and dispersal syndrome vary with human disturbance in sacred church forests in Ethiopia

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-1-2020

Department

Biology

Abstract

Research Highlights: Variations in species composition across church forests in northern Ethiopia were driven more by variations in human disturbance and community forest management than forest size. The degree of human disturbance acted as an environmental filter that selected for weedy, exotic, and wind-dispersed species regardless of forest size. Background and Objectives: Forest fragmentation can profoundly influence the long-term persistence of forests on the landscape. Habitat fragmentation can increase edge effects and limit dispersal between forest patches. In the South Gondar Administrative Zone in northern Ethiopia, many of the remaining forests are small sacred church forests governed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. Materials and Methods: We examined the drivers of woody plant species composition across 46 church forests in this region, including the influence of elevation, forest size, distance between forests, human disturbance, the presence of a wall, and the importance of local/individual community forest management at the Woreda level. We also examined how dispersal syndromes are influenced by increasing distance between forests and the extent of human disturbance within forests. Results: We found that elevational zone, distance between forests, the degree of human disturbance and Woreda had the greatest effect on species composition. Forest size and the presence of a wall were not significant drivers of species composition in these forests. Conclusions: We propose connecting forests through corridors or scattered trees to increase dispersal between forests, and greater on-the-ground protection efforts to restrict people and cattle from leaving the main trails within sacred forests.

Comments

Funding Sponsor: National Science Foundation, Funding Number: 1518501

Volume

11

Issue

10

ISSN

19994907

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