Detecting Trends in Landuse and Landcover Change of Nech Sar National Park, Ethiopia

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Nech Sar National Park (NSNP) is one of the most important biodiversity centers in Ethiopia. In recent years, a widespread decline of the terrestrial ecosystems has been reported, yet to date there is no comprehensive assessment on degradation across the park. In this study, changes in landcover were analyzed using 30 m spatial resolution Landsat imagery. Interannual variations of normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) were examined and compared with climatic variables. The result presented seven landcover classes and five of the seven landcover classes (forest, bush/shrubland, wooded grassland, woodland and grassland) were related to natural vegetation and two landcover types (cultivated land and area under encroaching plants) were direct results of anthropogenic alterations of the landscape. The forest, grassland, and wooded grassland are the most threatened habitat types. A considerable area of the grassland has been replaced by encroaching plants, prominently by Dichrostachys cinerea, Acacia mellifera, A. nilotica, A. oerfota, and A. seyal and is greatly affected by expansion of herbaceous plants, most commonly the species of the family Malvaceae which include Abutilon anglosomaliae, A.bidentatum and A.figarianu. Thus, changes in vegetation of NSNP may be attributed to (i) degradation of existing vegetation through deforestation and (ii) replacement of existing vegetation by encroaching plants. While limited in local meteorological station, NDVI analysis indicated that climate related changes did not have major effects on park vegetation degradation, which suggests anthropogenic impacts as a major driver of observed disturbances.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by the International Foundation for Science (IFS) Stockholm, Sweden, through a grant to Aramde Fetene Mengistu with grant number D/5284-1 for field works at Nech Sar National Park, and for USGS for providing Landsat images free of charge. Addis Ababa University, Oregon State University and Debre Markos University are duly acknowledged for their logistic assistance. Finally, we acknowledge the three anonymous reviewers for their substantial comments to enrich the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Aramde Fetene.

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Fetene, A., Hilker, T., Yeshitela, K. et al. Detecting Trends in Landuse and Landcover Change of Nech Sar National Park, Ethiopia. Environmental Management 57, 137–147 (2016).

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  • Degradation
  • Landsat
  • Landcover
  • NDVI
  • Nech Sar
  • Terrestrial