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Effect of forest fragmentation and disturbance on diversity and structure of woody species in dry Afromontane forests of northern Ethiopia

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Abstract

Anthropogenic disturbance and fragmentation have changed the structure and composition of northern Ethiopian forests. This study was conducted to determine disturbance levels of patches, and examine the effect of anthropogenic disturbance and fragment size on diversity and structural attributes of woody species. A systematic sampling method was used to collect data and 61 nested plots of each 400 m2 were used. The disturbance index was used to assess disturbance intensities. To examine the effects of fragment size and anthropogenic disturbances on woody species diversity and structure, regression analysis was performed. ANOVA was used to examine differences in woody species diversity and structural attributes among fragments. Similarities among patches were assessed by Sorensen’s similarity index. A total of 80 woody species, representing 68 genera and 43 families were recorded. Diversity, evenness, stem density ha−1, and basal area were 2.8 ± 0.47, 0.73 ± 1.10, 1171.21 ± 220.10, and 39.89 ± 17.47 m2 ha−1 respectively. The mean number of species, evenness, and diversity were significantly different among fragments. Diversity, evenness, the mean number of species, and stem density per hectare significantly increased with increasing fragment size. Disturbance intensities varied among fragments. However, the mean basal area, mean seedling, and sapling density per hectare were not significantly affected by patch size and disturbance intensities. Generally, forest fragmentation and anthropogenic disturbance resulted in the reduction of diversity, affect woody species structure, and increased the level of disturbance. Therefore, recognizing the role of small fragments for forest conservation, minimizing further disturbance, and undertaking restoration activities in disturbed patches are strongly needed.

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The authors declare that data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article and its supplementary information files.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Wollo University through the ministry of science and higher education of Ethiopia for funding support to undertake this study.

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Financial support to undertake the study was received from Wollo University through ministry of science and higher education of Ethiopia.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by [MGM]. The first draft of the manuscript was written by [MGM] and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Melese Genete Muluneh.

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Muluneh, M.G., Feyissa, M.T. & Wolde, T.M. Effect of forest fragmentation and disturbance on diversity and structure of woody species in dry Afromontane forests of northern Ethiopia. Biodivers Conserv 30, 1753–1779 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-021-02167-x

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