Forest structure and composition changes in a tropical montane cloud forest surrounding an illegal village in Bale Mountains National Park : anthropogenic disturbance along forest resource trails and implications for conservation and management Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/rb68xg66t

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  • Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP) is currently considered the most important conservation area in Ethiopia. BMNP was established over forty years ago to protect Ethiopian endemic fauna and to preserve an array of habitat types including Afroalpine, Afromontane, and the second largest natural humid forest (Harenna forest) left in Ethiopia. In the 1980’s and 1990’s assertions of a potential seasonal tropical montane cloud forest were made concerning areas in the upper Harenna forest. Despite these claims no additional evidence or research has been provided to verify the presence of a tropical montane cloud forest. Since the initial claims BMNP has faced increasing human and livestock population growth throughout the park including the elevation belt believed to contain the tropical montane cloud forest. This observational study was undertaken in Rira, the largest permanent village in the 2700 m to 3200 m above sea level belt. There were two goals to this research: one, to document rainfall amounts, temperature averages, and provide evidence of forest structure and characteristics consistent with tropical montane cloud forests; second, to identify the strongest detectible gradients affecting current forest structure and composition of herbaceous, shrub, and tree communities. A stationary weather station was installed at BMNP Subheadquarters at 2800 m to collect pertinent weather data. Variable-radius plots and fixed area plots were used along forest resource trails to collect the vegetation data. Nonmetric Multi-dimensional Scaling (NMS) was used to identify important gradients affecting forest structure and composition in the forest surrounding Rira. The vegetation matrix consisted of percent cover for the herbaceous layer, basal area and count for shrubs, basal area and size classification information for the trees, which resulted in a 15 plot x 96 species matrix. Twenty-three environmental and anthropogenic variables were used in a second matrix to identify primary gradients influencing the vegetation structure and composition. Average monthly rainfall in Rira was 673 mm based on 18 months of rainfall data. The overall forest canopy height and physical characteristics are consistent with tropical montane cloud forests. These findings suggest that the upper portion of the Harenna forest should be officially classified as tropical montane cloud forest. The primary gradient affecting forest structure and composition was consistent with anthropogenic disturbance. The variables which were statistically significant covariates included herbaceous layer height, distance to village, and presence of fuel wood collection with Pearson’s r (13) = -0.86, -0.84, 0.82, p<0.05 respectively. Due to the small sample size additional studies are required to clarify and understand the anthropogenic disturbance trends identified in this research. Studies concerning weather and to verify the role the Harenna forest plays in moderating moisture outflow to surrounding lowlands areas could provide additional incentives for conservation and management strategies.
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