Assessing Vulnerability of Provisioning Services in the Southern Highlands of Ethiopia

Dr. Paul Evangelista (PI), Dr. David Swift, Dr. Randall Boone, Dr. Kathleen Galvin, Dr. Stacy Lynn

Ecosystem services can be broadly defined as the benefits that humans receive from natural systems and environments. Considerable effort has been focused on trying to characterize general interactions between biodiversity and ecosystem services, especially provisioning services that support the livelihoods of rural and indigenous people. While there is a clear need to identify these relationships, there is also an urgency to assess their vulnerability to environmental change across the landscape and over time. This research, funded by the National Science Foundation, examines provisioning services, such as food, medicine and fuel wood, that benefit local people from the Oromo tribe in the Bale Mountains, Ethiopia. The aim of the study is to examine the associations between species diversity and provisioning services, and to assess their vulnerability to future human population growth and climate change. The research team is collecting information from tribal men and women on the various uses and values of plants and animals found within the study area. Additionally, they are inventorying species diversity using field sampling techniques to identify where species can be found and how common or rare they are. These data will be analyzed in a Geographic Information System (GIS) with satellite imagery, topography and climate data to map where provisioning services are found on the landscape. Once species diversity and the associated provisioning services are mapped, researchers can use spatial models to predict how their distributions and availability will respond to future human population growth and climate change.

This interdisciplinary and intercultural research approach will help identify how species diversity and provisioning services will be impacted under increasing human populations and future climate change while directing local communities and land managers to pre-emptive actions that may reduce negative impacts. The utilities of plants and animals for the local people will also help build and disseminate traditional knowledge and foster means to conserve and protect these important natural resources.

For more information on this project, contact Paul Evangelista at paul.evangelista@ColoState.EDU