Review: Church forests—the green spots of Ethiopian highlands




Abstract. Mekonen AB, Gebreegziabher BG, Wassie WA, Tsegay BA. 2019. Review: Church forests—the green spots of Ethiopian highlands. Asian J For 3: 45-53. In the central and northern highlands of Ethiopia, the diversity and biomass of native vegetation are almost restricted to church forests which are the only remnant natural forest in the region. The church forests are sacred because the church is believed to be the house of God and everything in its compound is sacred and respected. However, they are under severe threats by both anthropogenic and a few natural disturbances. This review paper summarizes the role of Ethiopian church forests in the boundaries of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Churches (EOTC), in biodiversity conservation, source of seed and seedling of native vegetation, ecological importance, ecosystem values and services to the community and to the globe in general. It also emphasizes the main challenges of these forests i.e., humans disturbance and natural disturbances. It states the conservation strategies of church forest. We conclude that the EOTCs besides its religious activities played a great role in conserving the forests. However, most church forests have no clear and documented demarcations which enhances disturbance. The churches are also cultivating fast-growing exotic species replacing native trees for their income. Finally, we recommend that the head priests should evoke and customize the conservation of sacred groves using religious thought. The government should acknowledge the church for conservation and decide to have a clear boundary for the church forest to minimize further encroachment. Forest genetic resources conservation program (in situ type), Participatory Forest Management (PFM), and rehabilitation activities have to be implemented in addition to the church conservation effort using religious thoughts, religious sanctions, and legal protection for the integrity of these remnant sacred groves. Further studies are recommended to fill the gap of sacred groves in addressing the cause of disturbance and to provide possible solutions for better conservation.