Climate change mitigation project threatens local ecosystem resilience in Ethiopia

April 16, 2018

REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) is an UN-led programme aiming to increase carbon sequestration in tropical forests. REDD+ is included among technologies for negative emissions, which stand for a large share of the emission reductions in the climate models internationally agreed on to keep global warming below 2°C. But increasing forest cover in developing counties can threaten other values, as shown in this new study. In southern Ethiopia the tree heather heathlands above the treeline are regularly burnt in order to improve livestock pasture, a practice that authorities within the REDD+ system now tries to stop in order to increase carbon storage. A new study from Stockholm University shows that the ancient pasture burning maintains biodiversity and habitats for alpine plant species not found anywhere else.

- These are species living at high altitudes in the mountains of southern Ethiopia, many are endemic to the area, says Maria Johansson, researcher at the Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Science sat Stockholm University. Pasture burning has been practised here for at least 2000 years and created a mosaic landscape of tree heather stands of differing age. These harbour different plant communities and young stands have more alpine species. If the burning would cease the heathlands would turn into forest and the alpine species disappear.

Burning vegetation is illegal in Ethiopia, as it was in many places before its importance for biodiversity was understood, and prescribed burning was reintroduced. The study confirms experience from European heathlands and other REDD+ projects in the tropics, that ecosystem services such as timber production and carbon sequestration often compromise other services, such as biodiversity and local livelihoods. Increased forest cover does not always favour local ecosystems and societies.

- We recommend that the traditional management is maintained, but regulated. In order to protect the species, and also to protect local livelihoods. Furthermore, the prescribed burning protects against dangerous wildfires, since young stands are non-flammable for several years, which reduces fire size, says Maria Johansson. It is somehow ironic that a REDD+ project created to mitigate climate change globally, might substantially reduce climate resilience locally.

The study was done in cooperation with the Botany Department at Addis Ababa University.

Stockholm University

Related Biodiversity Articles from Brightsurf:

Biodiversity hypothesis called into question
How can we explain the fact that no single species predominates?

Using the past to maintain future biodiversity
New research shows that safeguarding species and ecosystems and the benefits they provide for society against future climatic change requires effective solutions which can only be formulated from reliable forecasts.

Changes in farming urgent to rescue biodiversity
Humans depend on farming for their survival but this activity takes up more than one-third of the world's landmass and endangers 62% of all threatened species.

Predicting the biodiversity of rivers
Biodiversity and thus the state of river ecosystems can now be predicted by combining environmental DNA with hydrological methods, researchers from the University of Zurich and Eawag have found.

About the distribution of biodiversity on our planet
Large open-water fish predators such as tunas or sharks hunt for prey more intensively in the temperate zone than near the equator.

Bargain-hunting for biodiversity
The best bargains for conserving some of the world's most vulnerable salamanders and other vertebrate species can be found in Central Texas and the Appalachians, according to new conservation tools developed at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Researchers solve old biodiversity mystery
The underlying cause for why some regions are home to an extremely large number of animal species may be found in the evolutionary adaptations of species, and how they limit their dispersion to specific natural habitats.

Biodiversity offsetting is contentious -- here's an alternative
A new approach to compensate for the impact of development may be an effective alternative to biodiversity offsetting -- and help nations achieve international biodiversity targets.

Biodiversity yields financial returns
Farmers could increase their revenues by increasing biodiversity on their land.

Biodiversity and wind energy
The location and operation of wind energy plants are often in direct conflict with the legal protection of endangered species.

Read More: Biodiversity News and Biodiversity Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to