by Dereje Likissa Beyene (Ethiopia)
The Afromontane rainforest of Ethiopia is under the threat of deforestation and forest degradation, despite its significance as one of the only homes for wild populations of coffea arabica. One of the management initiatives was the UNESCO forest Biosphere Reserve (BR) aimed at strengthening policy and regulatory actions among local, regional and global governments and reconciling conservation with local development to monitor forest coverage changes. Assessing the impact of BR forest management and conservation on location, time and intensity of forest disturbances through Man and Biosphere (MaB) programme and REDD+ activities is important for regulatory actions. Empirical evidence on the achievement of this programme was not documented so far. This study is aimed at identifying the roles and assessing spatiotemporal impacts of this BR, together with measuring forest cover change dynamics and the drivers of such change in Yayu Coffee Forest BR of Ethiopia. Using multi-temporal Landsat datasets with in-situ field survey, the study employed BFAST monitor to detect historical forest disturbances and mobile devices to signal changes and collect the relevant data from households. Forest cover change was analysed both spatially (within the BR zones, and between the BR area and the leakage belt), and temporally before and after the implementation of the BR. Qualitative analysis on the role of the BR in tropical areas indicated that progresses in reducing deforestation were observed in areas where MaB aims were appropriately enacted. Landsat image analysis of the study revealed that transition zone has more deforestation rate than both buffer zone and core area within the BR, while relatively high deforestation rate was observed in the leakage belt than in the BR area. After implementation of the BR, average annual deforestation rate was declined from 0.29% to 0.16% in the BR area, and from 0.71% to 0.6% in the leakage belt, respectively, indicating the progress of BR program in reducing deforestation. Farm land expansion, mismanagement of coffee forest, access to forest, road and market were observed as the main drivers and underlying causes of forest cover loss. The findings of the study imply that BR efforts with MaB program and REDD+ activities have enhanced forest cover protections and carbon emission reductions in the study area. Therefore, promoting these initiatives at the local level is important for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation strategy of the country.
Keywords: UNESCO; biosphere reserve; deforestation; remote sensing; BFAST monitor; Yayu; coffee forest.