Export file:


  • RIS(for EndNote,Reference Manager,ProCite)
  • BibTex
  • Text


  • Citation Only
  • Citation and Abstract

Effects of exotic Eucalyptus spp. plantations on soil properties in and around sacred natural sites in the northern Ethiopian Highlands

1 Environmental Studies Program, Colby College, Waterville, ME 04901, USA
2 College of Forestry, Bahir Dar University, Bahir Dar, Amhara PNRS, Ethiopia
3 Biology Department, Colby College, Waterville, ME 04901, USA
4 Economics Department, Debre Markos University, Debre Markos, Amhara PNRS, Ethiopia

Special Editions: Land Management Practices for Soil Conservation in Climate Change Scenarios

Species of the genus Eucalyptus (common name eucalyptus) are widely planted all across Ethiopia—including on large areas of land previously allocated to food production. In recent decades eucalyptus has also increasingly been planted on lands around and within “church forests,” sacred groves of old-aged Afromontane trees surrounding Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido churches. These revered holy sites have long been recognized for their cultural values and also for their ecosystem services—including their potential to support species conservation and restoration, as church forests are some of the only remaining sanctuaries for many of Ethiopia’s indigenous and endemic plant and animal populations. Ethiopian Orthodox church communities have a long history of planting and nurturing indigenous tree seedlings to sustain church forest groves. However, due to the fast-growing nature of eucalyptuscombined with its widely recognized socio-economic benefits (as fuelwood, charcoal, construction wood, etc.), this introduced species has been widely plantedaround church forests—in some cases even replacing native tree species within church forests themselves. In many developing country contexts the introduction of exotic eucalyptus has been shown to have ecological impacts ranging from soil nutrient depletion, to lowering water tables, to allelopathic effects. In this study, we collected soil samples from indigenous forest fragments (church forests), adjacent eucalyptus plantations, and surrounding agricultural land to examine how eucalyptus plantations in Ethiopian Orthodox church communitiesmight impact soil quality relative to alternative land uses. Soil properties, including organic matter, pH, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus were measured in samples across 20 church forest sites in South Gondar, East Gojjam, West Gojjam, Awi, and Bahir Dar Liyu zones in the Amhara Region of the northern Ethiopian Highlands. Findings indicate that although soil in eucalyptus stands is more acidic and has lower organic matter and nutrient levels than nearby church forests, eucalyptusplantations also exhibit consistently higher organic matter and nutrient levels when compared to adjacent agricultural land. These findings suggest that eucalyptus planting could potentially benefit soil fertility on land that has been degraded by subsistence agriculture.
  Article Metrics

Keywords Eucalyptus; agricultural land; church forests; Ethiopia; soil properties

Citation: Janice Liang, Travis Reynolds, Alemayehu Wassie, Cathy Collins, Atalel Wubalem. Effects of exotic Eucalyptus spp. plantations on soil properties in and around sacred natural sites in the northern Ethiopian Highlands. AIMS Agriculture and Food, 2016, 1(2): 175-193. doi: 10.3934/agrfood.2016.2.175


  • 1. Stanturf JA, Vance ED, Fox TR, et al. (2013) Eucalyptus beyond Its Native Range: Environmental Issues in Exotic Bioenergy Plantations. Int J For Res 2013:463030.
  • 2. Zegeye H (2010) Environmental and Socio-economic Implications of Eucalyptus in Ethiopia. Ethiop Inst Agric Res2010: 184-205.
  • 3. Pohjonen V (1989) Establishment of fuelwood plantations in Ethiopia. Silva Cerelica 14: 1-388.
  • 4. Leicach SR, Grass MAY, Chludil HD, et al. (2012) Chemical Defenses in Eucalyptus Species: A Sustainable Strategy Based on Antique Knowledge to Diminish Agrochemical Dependency. New Advances and Contributions to Forestry Research. INTECH Open Access Publisher.
  • 5. Zhang C, Fu S (2009) Allelopathic effects of eucalyptus and the establishment of mixed stands of eucalyptus and native species. For Ecol Manag 258: 1391-1396.    
  • 6. Yitaferu B, Abewa A, Amare T (2013) Expansion of Eucalyptus Woodlots in the Fertile Soils of the Highlands of Ethiopia: Could It Be a Treat on Future Cropland Use?. J Agric Sci 5: 97-107.
  • 7. Bean C, Russo MJ. Element Stewardship Abstract for Eucalyptus globlus. The Nature Conservancy, 1989. Available from: http://www.invasive.org/gist/esadocs/documnts/eucaglo.pdf
  • 8. Davidson J (1989) The Eucalyptus Dilemma: Arguments For and Against Eucalypt Planting in Ethiopia. Eur Econ Rev 50: 1245-1277.
  • 9. Dessie G, Erkossa T (2011) Eucalyptus in East Africa. FAO.
  • 10. Palmberg C (2002) Annotated Bibliography on Environmental, Social and Economic Impacts of Eucalypts. FAO.
  • 11. Jagger P, Pender J (2003) The role of trees for sustainable management of less-favored lands: the case of eucalyptus in Ehtiopia. For Policy Econ 5: 83-95.    
  • 12. Kidanu S, Mamo T, Stroosnijder L (2005) Biomass production of Eucalyptus boundary plantations and their effect on crop productivity on Ethiopian highland Vertisols. Agroforestry Forum 63: 281-290.    
  • 13. Harrington RA, Ewel JJ (1997) Invasibility of tree plantations by native and non-native plant species in Hawaii. For Ecol Manag 99: 153-162.    
  • 14. Lemenih M, Kassa H (2014) Re-Greening Ethiopia: History, Challenges and Lessons. Forests 4: 1896-1909.
  • 15. Chanie T, Collick AS, Adgo E, et al. (2013) Eco-hydrological impacts of Eucalyptus in the semi humid Ethiopian Highlands: the Lake Tana Plain. J Hydrol Hydromech 61: 21-29.
  • 16. Yirdaw E (2001) Diversity of naturally-regenerated native woody species in forest plantations in the Ethiopian highlands. New For 22: 159-177.    
  • 17. Heilman P, Norby RJ (1997) Nutrient cycling and fertility management in temperate short rotation forest systems. Biomass Bioenerg 14: 361-371.
  • 18. Zewdie M (2008) Temporal changes of biomass production, soil properties, and ground flora in Eucalyptus globulus plantations in the central highlands of Ethiopia. [PhD]. Uppsala: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
  • 19. Sunder SS (1993) The Ecological, Economic and Social Effects of Eucalyptus. FAO Corporate Document Repository1.
  • 20. Poore MED, Fries C (1985) The ecological effects of eucalyptus. FAO For Paper 59.
  • 21. Nyssen J, Poesen J, Moeyersons J, et al. (2004) Human impact on the environment in the Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands -- a state of the art. Earth-Sci Rev 64: 273-320.    
  • 22. Pohjonen V, Pukkala T (1990) Eucalyptus globulus in Ethiopian Forestry. For Ecol Manag 36: 19-31.    
  • 23. Teshome T (2009) Is Eucalyptus Ecologically Hazardous Tree Species? Ethiop e-J Res Innov Foresight 1: 128-134.
  • 24. Teketay D (1992) Human impact on a natural montane forest in south eastern Ethiopia. Ethiop e-J ResInnov Foresight 1: 128-134.

  • 25. Aerts R, Overtveld KV, November E, et al. (2016) Conservation of the Ethiopian church forests: Threats, opportunities, and implications for their management. Sci Total Environ551: 404-414.
  • 26. Reynolds T, Sisay TS, Wassie A, et al. (2015) Sacred natural sites provide ecological libraries for landscape restoration and institutional models for biodiversity conservation. GSDR Brief.
  • 27. Bongers F, Wassie A, Sterck FJ, et al. (2006) Ecological restoration and church forests in northern Ethiopia. J Drylands 1: 35-44.
  • 28. Wassie A, Sterck FJ, Bongers F (2010) Species and structural diversity of church forests in a fragmented Ethiopian Highland landscape. J Veg Sci 21: 938-948.    
  • 29. Wassie A (2007) Ethiopian church forests: opportunities and challenges for restoration. The Netherlands: Wageningen University.
  • 30. Mengist M (2011) Eucalyptus plantations in the highlands of Ethiopia revisited: A comparison of soil nutrient status after the first coppicing. Mountain Forestry Master Programme.
  • 31. Schulte EE, Hopkins BG (1996) Estimation of soil organic matter by weight loss on ignition. Soil organic matter: Analysis and interpretation. Madison, WI: Soil Science Society of America. 21-32.
  • 32. Mclean EO (1982) Soil pH and lime requirement. Methods of soil analysis. Madison, WI: ASA and SSSA. 199-223
  • 33. Dahnke WC (1990) Testing soils for available nitrogen. Soil testing and plant analysis. Madison, WI: Soil Science Society of America. 120-140.
  • 34. Schlede H (1989) Distribution of acid soils and liming materials in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Institute of Geological Surveys.
  • 35. Olsen SR, Sommers LE (1982) Phosphorus. Methods of soil analysis. Madison, WI: ASA and SSSA. 403-430.
  • 36. Brady NC (1990) The Nature and Properties of Soils. New York, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
  • 37. Mekonnen K, Glatzel G, Sieghardt M, et al. (2009) Soil Properties under Selected Homestead Grown Indigenous Tree and Shrub Species in the Highland Areas of Central Ethiopia. East Afr J Sci 3: 9-17.
  • 38. Singwane SS, Malinga P (2012) Impacts of pine and eucalyptus forest plantations on soil organic matter content in Swaziland - Case of Shiselweni Forests. J Sustain Dev Afr 14: 137-151.
  • 39. Bot A, Benites J (2005) The importance of soil organic matter: Key to drough-resistant soil and sustained food and production. FAO.
  • 40. Griffiths R, Madritch M, Swanson A (2009) The effects of topography on forest soil characteristics in the Oregon Cascade Mountains (USA): Implications for the effects of climate change on soil properties. For Ecol Manag 257: 1-7.    
  • 41. Garten C, Post W, Hanson P, et al. (1999) Forest carbon inventories and dynamics along a elevation gradient in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Biogeochemistry 45: 115-145.
  • 42. Sims Z, Nielsen G (1986) Organic carbon in Montana soils related to clay content and climate. Soil Sci Soc Am J 50: 1261-1271.
  • 43. Ruiz-Sinoga JD, Romero-Diaz A (2010) Soil degradation factors along a Mediterranean physiometric gradient in Southern Spain. Geomorphology 118: 359-368.    
  • 44. Raison R, Khanna P, Crane W (1982) Effects of intensified harvesting on rates of nitrogen and phosphorus removal from Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus forests in Australia and New Zealand. N Z J For Sci 12: 394-403.
  • 45. Reganold J, Elliott L, Unger Y (1987) Long-term effects of organic and conventional farming on soil erosion. Nature 330: 370-372.    
  • 46. Ravina da Silva M (2012) Impact of Eucalyptus plantations on pasture land on soil properties and carbon sequestration in Brazil. Uppsala: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
  • 47. Berthrong T, Jobbagy G, Jackson B (2009) A global meta-analysis of soil exchangeable cations, pH, carbon, and nitrogen with afforestation. Ecol Soc Am 19: 2228-2241.
  • 48. Faria G, Barros NFd, Ferreira R (2009) Soil fertility, organic carbon and fractions of the organic matter at different distances from Eucalyptus stumps. Revista Brasileria de Cencia dosolo 33: 571-579.    
  • 49. Lemenih M, Gidyelew T, Teketay D (2004) Effect of canopy cover and understory environment of tree plantations on richness, density and size of colonizing woody species in southern Ethiopia. For Ecol Manag 194: 1-10.    
  • 50. Turner J, Lambert M (2000) Changing in organic carbon in forest plantations soils in eastern Australia. For EcolManag 133:231-247.
  • 51. Mensah AK (2015) Role of revegetation in restoring fertility of degraded mined soils in Ghana: A review. Int J Biodivers Convers 7: 57-80.    
  • 52. Michelsen A, Lisanework N, Friis I (1993) Impacts of tree plantations in the Ethiopian highland on soil fertility, shoot and root growth, nutrient utilisation and mycorrhizal colonisation. For Ecol Manag 61: 299-324.    
  • 53. Endale K (2011) Fertilizer Consumption and Agricultural Productivity in Ehiopia. Ethiopian Development Research Institute.
  • 54. Valentin CF, Agus R, Alamban A,et al. (2008) Runoff and sediment losses from 27 upland catchments in Southeast Asia: Impact of rapid land use changes and conservation practices. Agric Ecosyst Environ 128: 225-238.
  • 55. Janeau JL, Gillard LC, Grellier S, et al. (2014) Soil erosion, dissolved organic carbon and nutrient losses under different land use systems in a small catchment in northern Vietnam. Agric Water Manag 146: 314-323.    
  • 56. Mailapalli DR, Burger M, Horwath WR, et al. (2013) Crop residue biomass effects on agricultural runoff. Appl Environ Soil Sci 2013: 805206.
  • 57. Lisanework N, Michelsen A (1993) Allelopathy in agroforestry systems: the effect of Cupressus lusitanica and three Eucalyptus species on Ethiopian crops. Agrofor Syst 21: 63-74.    
  • 58. Joshi M, Palanisami K (2011) Impact of eucalyptus plantations on ground water availability in South Karnataka. ICID 21st International Congress on Irrigation and Drainage. Tehran, Iran.
  • 59. Prabhakar VK (1998) Social and community forestry.Satish Garg. New Delhi. 90-106
  • 60. Lal R (2007) Anthropogenic influences on world soils and implications to global food security. Adv Agron 93: 69-93.    
  • 61. Wiebe K (2003) Linking land quality, agricultural productivity, and food security. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Economic Report Number 823.


This article has been cited by

  • 1. Travis W. Reynolds, Cathy D. Collins, Alemayehu Wassie, Janice Liang, Wilford Briggs, Margaret Lowman, Tizezew Shimekach Sisay, Endale Adamu, Sacred natural sites as mensurative fragmentation experiments in long-inhabited multifunctional landscapes, Ecography, 2016, 10.1111/ecog.02950
  • 2. Solomon Ayele Tadesse, Solomon Mulu Tafere, Local people’s knowledge on the adverse impacts and their attitudes towards growing Eucalyptus woodlot in Gudo Beret Kebele, Basona Worena district, Ethiopia, Ecological Processes, 2017, 6, 1, 10.1186/s13717-017-0105-5
  • 3. Yoseph T. Delelegn, Witoon Purahong, Amila Blazevic, Birru Yitaferu, Tesfaye Wubet, Hans Göransson, Douglas L. Godbold, Changes in land use alter soil quality and aggregate stability in the highlands of northern Ethiopia, Scientific Reports, 2017, 7, 1, 10.1038/s41598-017-14128-y
  • 4. Madelon Lohbeck, Leigh Winowiecki, Ermias Aynekulu, Clement Okia, Tor-Gunnar Vågen, Marney Isaac, Trait-based approaches for guiding the restoration of degraded agricultural landscapes in East Africa, Journal of Applied Ecology, 2017, 10.1111/1365-2664.13017
  • 5. Mesfin Sahle, Osamu Saito, Christine Fürst, Kumelachew Yeshitela, Quantification and mapping of the supply of and demand for carbon storage and sequestration service in woody biomass and soil to mitigate climate change in the socio-ecological environment, Science of The Total Environment, 2018, 624, 342, 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.12.033
  • 6. Arragaw Alemayehu, Woldeamlak Bewket, Trees and rural households’ adaptation to local environmental change in the central highlands of Ethiopia, Journal of Land Use Science, 2018, 1, 10.1080/1747423X.2018.1465137
  • 7. Priyanka Raja, Hema Achyuthan, K. Geethanjali, Pankaj Kumar, Sundeep Chopra, Late Pleistocene Paleoflood Deposits Identified by Grain Size Signatures, Parsons Valley Lake, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, Journal of the Geological Society of India, 2018, 91, 5, 547, 10.1007/s12594-018-0903-0
  • 8. Teowdroes Kassahun, Svane Bender, , Handbook of Climate Change and Biodiversity, 2019, Chapter 12, 195, 10.1007/978-3-319-98681-4_12
  • 9. Amare Bitew Mekonnen, Distribution and ecological impact of exotic woody plant species inside sacred groves of Northwestern Ethiopia, Biodiversity and Conservation, 2019, 10.1007/s10531-019-01799-4
  • 10. Nathan S. Chesterman, Julia Entwistle, Matthew C. Chambers, Hsiao-Chin Liu, Arun Agrawal, Daniel G. Brown, The effects of trainings in soil and water conservation on farming practices, livelihoods, and land-use intensity in the Ethiopian highlands, Land Use Policy, 2019, 87, 104051, 10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.104051

Reader Comments

your name: *   your email: *  

Copyright Info: 2016, Travis Reynolds, et al., licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Download full text in PDF

Export Citation

Copyright © AIMS Press All Rights Reserved