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JOURNAL OF THE DRYLANDS 1(1): 1-2, 2006

The ecology and silviculture of dryland forest rehabilitation in Ethiopia


Bart Muys1,*, Kindeya Gebrehiwot2 and Sofie Bruneel1 Guest editors
Muys B, Kindeya Gebrehiwot and Bruneel S (2006): The ecology and silviculture of dryland forest rehabilitation in Ethiopia. Journal of the Drylands 1(1): 1-2. Division Forest, Nature and Landscape, Department of Land Management and Economics, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E, BE-3001 Leuven, Belgium 2 Land Resources Management and Environmental Protection Department, Mekelle University, P.O. Box 231, Mekelle, Ethiopia * Author for correspondence: Bart Muys, Tel. +32-16-329726, Fax +32-16-329760, E-mail: bart.muys@biw.kuleuven.be (B. Muys)
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Tropical dryland forests have received far less scientific attention than moist forests, although their high ecological, environmental and economic importance, being situated in rather densely populated rural areas. The natural dryland forests of Ethiopia are threatened as a consequence of gradual degradation and deforestation. They are highly fragmented and the risk of extinction of the rich biodiversity they hold is increasing. Together with their biomass and biodiversity they loose their buffering capacity against desiccating solar radiation, torrential rains and erosive flows of water, and their ability to produce income generating goods and services. Important efforts of dryland forest resources restoration are therefore needed. These attempts include protection of existing forests, establishment of community woodlots and private plantations, introduction and promotion of agroforestry systems, and particularly, the establishment of exclosures (also called enclosures, area closures, and closed areas). Exclosures are areas closed from grazing of livestock in order to promote natural forest regeneration. They represent a large-scale effort that already enabled re-growth and re-colonisation of indigenous species over thousands of hectares. But many questions remain unsolved, because of insufficient autecological knowledge of the tree species, and because of lack of experience with the long-term evolution of the exclosures. Setting the acceptable level of harvest from exclosures is a challenge, because of the uncertain borderline between allowable and unsustainable use. It is also unsure which future management systems could upgrade the exclosures from bush encroachment to restoration of valuable high forest,

Recent research is looking into the regeneration ecology of forest fragments and exclosures, their biodiversity, production of wood and non-wood forest products, environmental benefits for soil and water conservation, and economic value in comparison to other land uses. There are indications that the area closure practice is receiving wide acceptance. Nevertheless, limited attempts have been made to systematize the available knowledge and create a forum to share experiences. The first two issues of the Journal of the Drylands try to fill this knowledge gap, as they are dedicated to the ecology and management of dryland forests. The papers in these two issues were presented at the First Symposium on the Rehabilitation of Dryland Forests in Ethiopia: Ecology and Management, which took place from 21 to 24 September 2004 in Mekelle, Ethiopia. The aims of that meeting were to share knowledge and draw experience from recent research on the ecology and management of degraded dry forests and of exclosures in Ethiopia and elsewhere; to evaluate possibilities and constraints for natural regeneration of Ethiopian dryland forests; and, to evaluate status and trends of the current dryland forest resource base. The questions that were addressed included the state-of-knowledge about the ecology and management of dry forests in Ethiopia; a status of current efforts to restore these forests, including recommendations to increase their success in the future; experiences with natural and artificial regeneration in exclosures; management techniques that can facilitate the restoration while providing products for local communities; and the need for institutional and organizational re-arrangements. The large number of excellent papers presented made it

Copyright Journal of the Drylands 2006 ISSN 1817-3322

necessary to cover two issues of the Journal of the Drylands for publishing these proceedings. As it will be the standard in this journal all submitted papers went through a full reviewing process. This first of the two issues is focussing on conservation and regeneration ecology and on silvicultural practice. The issue opens with a general problem statement on land degradation in Ethiopia and the role of forest rehabilitation in the land restoration process (Gebre Egziabher 2006). Observational studies of the natural forest (Shibru and Woldu 2006, Ogbazghi et al 2006) represent an important knowledge base for forest management and forest restoration. This knowledge is completed by in-depth experimental studies on the autecology of the main tree species (Gindaba 2006). Ideas for sustainable management and successful regeneration of remaining natural forest fragments are presented by Amente et al 2006 and by Bongers et al 2006. Several papers study forest regeneration success under different circumstances: Moges and Kindu (2006) studied the conditions for successful natural regeneration in exclosures; Aerts et al (2006) looked at the success rate of enrichment planting in exclosures depending on the environmental conditions; Kidane and Tesfaye (2006) investigated tree planting in an agroforestry context and Lemenih (2006) highlights the interesting issue of using exotic trees as a nurse crop for natural regeneration of native climax species. We feel confident that these papers include much ideas and information, which will prove to be useful for a better ecological understanding of the dryland forests of Ethiopia, their structure and functioning, and for a more sustainable management of both forest fragments and exclosures. It is therefore our hope that this journal will find its way to students, lecturers, forest managers, land use planners, agricultural and forestry extension officers, and NGOs dedicated to development and environment, and that these readers can digest and apply some of the knowledge and techniques here presented. The guest editors like to thank the chief editor and the editorial board for having received the opportunity to work out these first two issues of the Journal of the Drylands. They also like to thank Mekelle University for hosting the Dryland Forests Symposium, and the VLIR (Flemish Interuniversity Council), who generously sponsored the organization of the symposium, travelling and subsistence grants for many participants, and the realization of these special journal issues through congress grant NICO2004PR004, project grant AEIN2000PR227 and by the VLIR IUC programme with Mekelle University.

References
Aerts R, Aklilu Negussie, Maes W, November E, Hermy M and Muys B (2006): Survival of planted African wild olive seedlings in northern Ethiopian exclosures depends on planting season and shrub cover. Journal of the Drylands 1(1): 64-71. Berhane Kidane and Agajie Tesfaye (2006): Agroforestry practices and tree planting constraints and opportunities in Sekota District of the Amhara Regional State. Journal of the Drylands 1(1): 52-63. Bongers F, Alemayehu Wassie, Sterck FJ, Tesfaye Bekele and Demel Teketay (2006): Ecological restoration and church forests in northern Ethiopia. Journal of the Drylands 1(1): 35-44. Girma Amente, Huss J and Tennigkeit T (2006): Forest regeneration without planting: the case of community managed forests in the Bale mountains of Ethiopia. Journal of the Drylands 1(1): 26-34. Jiregna Gindaba (2006): Overview of water and nutrient relations of Eucalyptus and deciduous tree species and implications for their use in land rehabilitation. Journal of the Drylands 1(1): 15-25. Mulugeta Lemenih (2006): Expediting ecological restoration with the help of foster tree plantations in Ethiopia. Journal of the Drylands 1: 72-84. Shibru S and Zerihun Woldu (2006): Comparative floristic study on Mt. Alutu and Mt. Chubbi along an altitudinal gradient. Journal of the Drylands 1(1): 8-14. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher (2006): The role of forest rehabilitation for poverty alleviation in drylands. Journal of the Drylands 1(1): 1-2. Woldeselassie Ogbazghi, Bongers F, Rijkers T and Wessel M (2006): Population structure and morphology of the frankincense tree Boswellia papyrifera along an altitude gradient in Eritrea. Journal of the Drylands 1(1): 85-94. Yitebitu Moges and Mengistie Kindu (2006): Effects of fencing and ground cultivation on natural regeneration of Boswellia papyrifera in Metema Wereda, Ethiopia. Journal of the Drylands 1(1): 45-51.

JOURNAL OF THE DRYLANDS 1:1 (2006)