Vegetation Ecology and Dynamics of Land Cover Change of Abune Yosef Mountain Range, Lasta District, Amhara Regional State, Northern Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


The understudied flora, Abune Yosef mountain range, is under pressure from land use changes. This research was conducted to study the vascular plant composition, plant communities, diversity, conservation status, species richness pattern along elevation gradient, and spatiotemporal land use and land cover change. A total of 85 nested sample plots measuring 20 X 20 m, 5 X 5 m and 1 X 1 m were established for trees, shrubs, and herbs respectively. Topographic, edaphic and disturbance variables were also collected from each plot. IUCN Red List and a combination of density of mature individuals, habitat specificity, and species local range was considered to assess global and local rarity respectively. Two Landsat satellite imageries from 1986 (Thematic Mapper, TM) and 2017 (Operational Land Imager, OLI) were used. Aerial photographs were used for ground referencing of the 1986 satellite image. Agglomerative hierarchical clustering and Shannon diversity index were employed to classify plant communities and quantify community diversity and evenness. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) was used to describe vegetation-environment-disturbance relationships. Descriptive statistics and rarity forms ratio were used for vascular plants conservation status analysis. To investigate land use land cover change (LULCC), supervised classification using Maximum Likelihood Classifier of two Landsat images from 1986 and 2017 was performed. Ground reference points and aerial photographs were used for accuracy assessment. One hundred ninety nine vascular plant species belonging to 64 families and 155 genera were recorded in five plant communities. The most species rich families were Asteraceae 42(21.1%), Poaceae 15(7.5%), Lamiaceae 12(6.03%) and Fabaceae 11(5.5%) respectively. Thirty two families were represented by a single species. The species richness followed a monotonically decreasing pattern towards higher elevation. Of the vascular plants assessed following IUCN Red List criteria, about 5% are threatened and the remaining are of least concern. Locally, only 17 species (8.54%) of the plants revealed common, and the remaining entertained six forms of rarity. The first axis explained 43.63% of the overall inertia and is correlated with Elevation, pH, slope aspect, total Nitrogen, soil organic Carbon & Clay. On the other hand, the second axis explained 32.06% of the total inertia and is correlated with bulk density, slope, logging, & available Phosphorus. The LULCC results demonstrated that the area of Afroalpine grassland has declined by -64.76% over the last 31 years, from 10, 500 ha to 3700 ha. Other declines were seen in grazing land (-72.15%, 5,900 ha), open woodland from (-100%, 3,900 ha) and shrubland (-7.04%, 2,500 ha). On the other hand, agricultural land area has increased from 38, 300 to 48, 700 ha (+27.15%), barren land from 5,400 to 8,900 ha (+64.81%), rivers, riverbeds and gullies from 1,100 to 3,700 (+236.56%), plantation forests from 2,500 to 4,700 ha (+88%) and urban settlements from 300 to 500 ha (+66.66%). The present study revealed that topographic variables have a profound influence on species distribution. Exclusive to church forests, the vegetation cover showed a declining trend over the study period. The main drivers of LULCC were identified as increased human population pressure, and temperature and precipitation variability. Since the majority of the plants are rare in the mountain range, landscape level conservation approach by establishing corridors between the vegetation types to maintain ecological and evolutionary processes is recommended.



Elevation Gradient, Floristic Composition, Lulc, Multivariate Analysis, Plant Community, Plant Rarity, Remote Sensing