Spatial predictions for the distribution of woody plant species under different land-use scenarios in southwestern Ethiopia
Duguma, Dula Wakassa; Law, Elizabeth; Shumi, Girma; Rodrigues, Patrícia; Senbeta, Feyera; Schultner, Jannik; Abson, David J.; Fischer, Joern
Context: Deforestation, forest degradation and intensification of farming threaten terrestrial biodiversity. As these land-use changes accelerate in many landscapes, especially in the Global South, it is vital to anticipate how future changes might impact specific aspects of biodiversity. Objectives: The objectives of this study were to model woody plant species richness in southwestern Ethiopia, for the present and for four plausible, spatially explicit scenarios of the future (‘Gain over grain’, ‘Mining green gold’, ‘Coffee and conservation’ and ‘Food first’). Methods: We used cross-validated generalized linear models for both forest and farmland, to relate empirical data on total and forest-specialist woody plant species richness to indicators of human disturbance and environmental conditions. We projected these across current and future scenario landscapes. Results: In both farmland and forest, richness peaked at intermediate elevations (except for total species richness in farmland) and decreased with distance to the forest edge (except for forest specialist richness in forest). Our results indicate that the ‘Mining green gold’ and ‘Food first’ scenarios would result in strong losses of biodiversity, whereas the ‘Gain over grain’ scenario largely maintained biodiversity relative to the baseline. Only the ‘Coffee and conservation’ scenario, which incorporates a new biosphere reserve, showed positive changes for biodiversity that are likely viable in the long term. Conclusions: The creation of a biosphere reserve could maintain and improve woody plant richness in the focal region, by forming a cluster with existing reserves, would be a major step forward for sustainability in southwestern Ethiopia.