Woody species diversity, structural composition, and human use of church forests in central Ethiopia

Eguale Tadesse Kifle, Florent Noulèkoun, Yo Whan Son, Asia Khamzina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Church forests on the premises of Ethiopian Orthodox Churches have been recognized as refugia of tropical plant biodiversity within the predominantly agricultural landscape matrix. Understanding the species composition, population structure, and human use of trees in forested areas is crucial for sustainable conservation efforts. We investigated these features in mixed natural-planted church forests in central Ethiopia. Three forests associated with churches for 37–50 years were surveyed to assess: (i) the diversity and population characteristics of woody species depending on the age of the church forest, (ii) the use of trees by humans, and (iii) church forests’ contribution to the conservation of threatened species. Vegetation and ethnobotanical data were collected via forest inventory of 24 plots sized 0.04 ha and through a rapid rural appraisal conducted in 120 households. Thirty woody species, twenty-eight indigenous species, and two exotic species were identified. The three church forests were floristically different, with only four tree species in common. Most indices of diversity and population structural parameters of woody species were higher in older than in younger church forests, presumably due to a longer tradition of forest conservation. All church forests presented inverse J-shaped size-class distributions, indicative of populations with good recruitment potential. Woody species were mainly used for medicine, construction wood, and firewood. Eighteen threatened species were recorded; however, few conservation activities besides social taboos were revealed in the examined forests. Our findings highlight the role of church forests in the conservation of woody species diversity, and the need to strengthen current strategies to support long-term biodiversity conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119991
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Feb 15


  • Conservation status
  • Fisher's α index
  • Hill numbers
  • Importance value index
  • Medicinal use
  • Threatened species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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