During a recent visit to Ethiopia, Global Trees Campaign staff encountered many amazing trees and identified exciting opportunities for tree conservation efforts. With growing momentum in the country for botanic garden development, the Global Trees Campaign is working with partners in Ethiopia to develop projects to save the country’s threatened trees from extinction.
Situated in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia possesses one of the richest assemblages of plants in the African continent. It is the origin of many globally important crop species, most notably Coffea arabica (coffee). The country has a high diversity of tree species, many of which are endemic to Ethiopia, or restricted to Ethiopia and its bordering countries.
In 2005, the Global Trees Campaign published a preliminary Red List of Endemic Trees and Shrubs of Ethiopia and Eritrea. This publication estimated that there are 428 endemic and near endemic woody taxa in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and presented conservation assessments using IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria for 135 woody taxa. Of the taxa assessed, 46 were assessed as Critically Endangered.
A particularly iconic genus in Ethiopia is Acacia. Dry Acacia forests cover large parts of the country. Six species were assessed as threatened in the 2005 Red List publication, including:
- Acacia bricchettiana is assessed as Critically Endangered and reported as known from only two type collections.
- Acacia prasinata, also assessed as Critically Endangered. Despite occurring in a National Park, the remaining populations of this species are reported to be threatened by overgrazing and cutting for firewood.
Another iconic forest type in Ethiopia is the Hagenia and Juniper forests of the Simien and Bale Mountains. This forest type has decreased rapidly in recent years. The largest remaining section of the Hagenia and Juniper forest occurs within the Bale Mountains National Park, but even within this protected area collection for firewood persists. A number of native species of fauna occur within this forest type including Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni), listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- Hagenia abyssinica is native to the Afromontane regions of central and eastern Africa. Despite a fairly large range, deforestation is occurring across these regions and this species is becoming locally rare in some areas. This species is noted as being of serious conservation concern within Ethiopia in the 2005 Red List publication. H. abyssinica is used locally in Ethiopia for timber and as a source of medicine. There is a great need to increase conservation work of this important species to support wild populations and provide material for reintroduction and restoration projects in future.
- Juniperus procera is assessed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List due to a current wide distribution, however the population is reported to be declining due to continuing exploitation and deforestation. The species is noted to be at particular risk in Ethiopia and Kenya, due to depletion of old growth forest groves of this species. As the only juniper species occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa, J. procera should be an important conservation priority for countries within its range.
Botanic gardens and arboreta can play vital roles in the conservation of threatened tree species. It is therefore very encouraging to see the development of new botanic gardens and arboreta in Ethiopia, with accession plans focusing on conservation of the country’s diverse native flora. For example, a recently initiated project to restore the arboretum at Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources aims to maintain a national collection of endemic and endangered tree species for conservation, research and education. The arboretum has great outreach potential as it is based at the national forestry college and has already established strong links with international partners and other botanic gardens and conservation organisations in Ethiopia.
Following a recent visit by Global Trees Campaign staff to Ethiopia, we will be working during 2014 to establish conservation projects for the threatened and iconic tree species of Ethiopia with these institutions.
This post was co-authored by Dr. Peter Borchardt, Department of Geography, University of Hamburg, Germany. Peter is involved in the arboretum restoration project at Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources.Photo credits: Header image, Peter Borchardt. Embedded images, Kirsty Shaw.