Spatial variation in human disturbances and their effects on forest structure and biodiversity across an Afromontane forest

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  • Dinkissa Beche
  • Ayco Tack
  • Sileshi Nemomissa
  • Bikila Warkineh
  • Debissa Lemessa
  • Patricia Rodrigues
  • Joern Fischer
  • Kristoffer Hylander

Context: Human disturbances can have large impacts on forest structure and biodiversity, and thereby result in forest degradation, a property difficult to detect by remote sensing. Objectives: To investigate spatial variation in anthropogenic disturbances and their effects on forest structure and biodiversity. Methods: In 144 plots of 20 × 20 m distributed across a forest area of 750 km2 in Southwest Ethiopia, we recorded: landscape variables (e.g., distance to forest edge), different human disturbances, forest structure variables, and species composition of trees and epiphyllous bryophytes. We then first assessed if landscape variables could explain the spatial distribution of disturbances. Second, we analysed how forest structure and biodiversity were influenced by disturbances. Results: Human disturbances, such as coffee management and grazing declined with distance to forest edges, and penetrated at least a kilometer into the forest. Slope was not related to disturbance levels, but several types of disturbances were less common at higher elevations. Among human disturbance types, coffee management reduced liana cover and was associated with altered species composition of trees. The presence of large trees and basal area were not related to any of the disturbance gradients. Conclusions: Although most anthropogenic disturbances displayed clear edge effects, surprisingly the variation in the chosen forest degradation indices were only weakly related to these disturbances. We suggest that the intersection between edge effects and forest degradation is very context specific and relies much on how particular societies use the forests. For example, in this landscape coffee management seems to be a key driver.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)493-510
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.

    Research areas

  • Coffea arabica, Coffee management, Edge effects, Epiphyllous bryophytes, Forest degradation, Human-inhabited landscapes, Liana, Trees
  • Environmental planning