Conserving our planet's botanical resources and ecosystems

A Preliminary Assessment of Ethiopian Sacred Grove Status at the Landscape and Ecosystem Scales

Abstract: The northern Ethiopian landscape is dotted with small patches of church forests that are religious centers for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church (EOTC). These sacred groves are what remain of the once vast tropical Afromontane dry forest. Herein we review the landscape pattern of sacred groves in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, and their local scale nutrient status at two sites, Zahara and Debresena. A total of 1,488 sacred groves were inventoried within the study area, yielding an overall density of one sacred grove for every twenty square kilometers. Sacred groves averaged a little over five hectares and were separated from one another by more than two kilometers. At the local scale we found that soil carbon and nitrogen stocks have decreased significantly between the forest interior and the clearing indicating decreased soil fertility. Together our data indicate that these sacred groves are vulnerable to loss because of their small average size, isolation from seed sources, and decreasing soil status.

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