Assessing Vulnerability of Provisioning Services in the Southern Highlands of Ethiopia
Use of natural resources and lands by humans is decreasing biological diversity with unknown but potentially large effects on the future availability of resources to humans. This project will investigate the feedback loop between biodiversity and the usefulness of natural areas for people. The study area in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia is a good example of an area where biodiversity is high but decreasing. It is an area where humans use natural species for food, medicine, and fuel and also use lands for settlement, agriculture, and grazing. Researchers will interview local residents to learn how they use and value wild species of plants and animals and where they gather and hunt them, and survey the area to map the distribution and abundance of these and other native species. From these data, together with likely scenarios of local human population growth and climate change, it will be possible to assess the risks of further loss of species and the consequent risks of loss of usefulness of the area for people.
This project has immediate importance for society -- it will improve understanding of how human well-being depends on nature, and enhance our ability to predict the future societal costs of various present uses of natural resources. The research also has specific importance for the conservation of both nature and culture in an area that is rich in both. As part of an ongoing collaboration between scientists and educators in the U.S. and Ethiopia, the work will strengthen international scientific cooperation.